I’m really excited to announce that I have a new open-access book chapter called “The Ship of Theseus: Change Over Time in Topics of Technical Communication Research Abstracts” out now. It’s meta-research (research on research) about the field that I work in, so if you want to know what sorts of things I and my colleagues do all day, this is a good intro!
Thanks to Lisa Melonçon and Joanna Schreiber for convening and editing this collection! The full book, Assembling Critical Components: A Framework for Sustaining Technical and Professional Communication, is out in digital now and will be out in print soon.
Here’s my abstract:
Meta-research on technical communication’s published research can contribute empirical evidence to debates about what technical communication is and what it does. In this article, I conduct a corpus analysis of 1,593 abstracts from five technical communication journals covering the years
2000-2017 to determine the topics of research article abstracts. I analyze changes over time in word usage, as measured by numbers of abstracts mentioning individual words. Increases and decreases in word frequency over time indicate three trends in the topics of technical communication research abstracts: technical communication is moving from print communication to digital communication, expanding its boundaries via the term technical and professional communication (TPC), and increasing research on core concerns of technical communicators. The digital work that featured prominently in research abstracts reflected diversified types of online work in technical communication, such as content management, user experience (UX), and social media. Words describing areas of social justice, entrepreneurship, and community-oriented work grew in usage, but these areas are still small in comparison to the number of abstracts reaffirming core concerns such as practitioners, practices, and value. Yet the rapid digital diversification of technical communication work ensures that we should always be updating what “core concerns” means in our field.