Why Practitioners Should Care About Research

Room 42 is where practitioners and academics meet to share knowledge about breaking research. In this episode, George Hayhoe explains the reasons why collaboration between both academics and practitioners serves the entire technical communications profession.

Airdate: July 8, 2020

Season 1 Episode 1 | 54 min

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Transcript (Expand to View)

[00:00:07.000] – Liz Fraley

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Room 42. I'm Liz Fraley from Single Sourcing Solutions. I'm the moderator today. This is Janice Summers, our interviewer. And welcome to George Hayhoe, our guest for this, the very first episode of Room 42. George has done it all. He's worked in industry. He's been a teacher. He's been a researcher. He's edited professional journals and encouraged other researchers and practitioners to participate in research. He's here to help today to help us start answering the question, why should practitioners care about research and journals?

[00:00:38.830] – Liz

Welcome, George.

[00:00:40.270] – Janice Summers

Good morning. Good morning, George. We're very excited to have you. So, the topic of discussion is about journals. Professional journals. And why should they matter so much to practitioners? Because there seems to be a gap. Is there a gap between practitioner and the research journals?

[00:01:07.190] – George Hayhoe

Oh, absolutely. It is, I think, particularly felt by practitioners who think that. The folks who publish research and journals have no clue what it is that they actually do in the real world. And it's also felt by researchers who are frustrated because they do research, they publish research, and they feel that nobody in the world of practitioners is paying attention to it. Now, sometimes that's deserved because there is very little connection made in the articles and books between the information that they contain and the needs of practitioners.

[00:02:10.020] – Janice

So now how do we start to affect a change in that? Is there interest from..  because I'm sure even, you know, from the researchers perspective and the effort that it takes to do research and to write up articles? I'm sure there's some frustration on their part that it's just gone into a dustbin and nobody pays attention. So, how do we start to change that?

[00:02:36.400] – George

Well, two of the major journals and the field: Technical Communication, which is published by STC and the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, which is published by the IEEE Professional Communication Society for each article that those two journals publish, they include a practitioner's take away. Typically, that's a bulleted list early in the article that highlights the information that is contained in the article that is of particular interest or should be of particular interest to practitioners and industry.

[00:03:23.900] – George

Now, there's also a movement within professional organizations to have a cross-fertilization, if you will, between industry practitioners and academics. The folks who typically publish most of the research. STC, for example, has an academic SIG special interest group that SIG has sponsored a–in the past, I don't think it has been done in several years–but has sponsored in the past a mini conference with the Council of Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (https://cptsc.org/), which is an organization that's composed of primarily department heads or program heads in academic departments.

[00:04:25.780] – George

And that conference has encouraged a face-to-face meeting of practitioners and researchers. So there has been a real attempt by academic folks and by practitioners to promote the trust in organizations.

[00:04:52.230] – Janice

Right, to bridge that gap. So, and how has that proven out? I mean, has this been going on for a little while or is that kind of been a little rough?

[00:05:04.180] – George

Well, it's hard to tell because we don't have any real way to measure what the impact is. And that's an unfortunate thing. If you know anything at all about scholarly journals, there is something that's called an impact factor. Impact factor basically looks at how many people have cited an article over the past five years. Not not an article, but articles in a particular journal over five years. And that's helpful, but it really only measures the impact of the research on other researchers.

[00:05:54.530] – George

Back when I was editing STC's Journal, I published an editorial that was basically calling for a practitioner citation index, not in the sense of a citation of research, but use or application of research. The problem there is there's really no way of measuring that. We can look at cites of articles in other articles. That's relatively easy to do. Seeing how, measuring how influential an article is is extraordinarily difficult. And sometimes when an article is cited or referred to by practitioners, it's kind of a mistaken citation or a mistaken application.

[00:06:56.810] – George

I think, for example, there's an article that was published, I believe, in 1957 in a psychology journal by George Miller. It's called “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” And it's an article about a study in cognitive psychology that looked at how much information people can retain in their short term memory and call upon easily? That's very helpful to know that you can only retain somewhere between five and nine bits of information in your short term memory.

[00:07:42.750] – George

But a lot of people have applied that principle incorrectly. And I've heard many people… I've heard people say, for example, that bulleted lists or numbered lists should contain, optimally, seven items, seven list items. 

[00:08:03.500] – Janice


[00:08:05.460] – George

Well, that, unfortunately, has nothing to do with Miller's finding. It's a misapplication of Miller's finding, because when you're dealing with a bulleted list or a numbered list, you've got the list in front of you. You don't have to retain it in your memory.

[00:08:24.720] – Janice


[00:08:26.890] – George

So, you know, that's that's the kind of thing that we're looking at. How can we determine how influential works of research are in terms of their application by practitioners? 

[00:08:45.040] – Janice

So, finding out how useful the practitioner feels the research is.

[00:08:49.900] – George

Yes, or how aware they are of it. You've got to be aware of it before you can use it.

[00:08:57.040] – Janice

Right. You have to know it exists. Right? Like, how would they find? How would they find information if they're looking for, like, “Is there research on formatting?” How would they go about finding that information?

[00:09:11.410] – George

Well, one way of being aware of research that's published is to be a member of a professional organization that sponsors a journal. So, for example, if you're a member of a IEEE's Professional Communications Society, you automatically get a subscription to IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 

[00:09:38.950] – Janice

And access to all the archives

[00:09:41.260] – George


[00:09:42.890] – Janice

Which is important because you've got rich archives. 

[00:09:45.990] – George


[00:09:46.820] – George

And you can go to that archive and search on the terms that you want to find information about. Similarly, STC has a professional journal called Technical Communication. Same thing applies: You get a subscription. As a member, you can go to the archive and search. The Association of Teachers of Technical Communication publishes a journal called Technical Communication Quarterly. Same thing applies there as well. So that's how you can find information from journal articles and the vast majority of research in our field is published in journals. 

[00:10:37.250] – Janice

And all of them then have a nice rich archive. It's searchable, easy to access. 

[00:10:43.190] – George

Correct. And then if you don't belong to a professional organization but you ought to..

[00:10:47.590] – Janice

You're in the profession.

[00:10:47.650] – George

But if you don't–and you know I can understand. Back when I started my life as a technical communicator, my employer paid my professional society dues and that was really nice. But I am guessing that darn few companies these days are doing that anymore. 

[00:11:13.670] – Janice


[00:11:14.470] – George

But if you don't belong to a professional organization, there is another way to find a lot of information that won't be as complete, that won't be as comprehensive, but there is a critter called Google Scholar.

[00:11:32.620] – Janice

And another thing, really. I mean, if you're an individual in a profession, it's kind of like, you know, we should all kind of be a little familiar with dues. We go to the gym, we pay a membership fee. It's like so, you know, it's not that bad to pay a membership fee, even if your company doesn't pick it up, right? 

[00:11:51.820] – George

That's true.

[00:11:52.850] – Janice

I mean, you might just have to pick one group to belong to as opposed to, like, all groups.

[00:11:57.380] – George

Yeah. And, you know, there are five major journals in our field. Three of them are sponsored by professional organizations. The other two are commercially published journals. And they are very expensive. So, my guess is most people are only going to belong to one or two of those organizations if they belong to any at all. But there is another way to find information, again, not as comprehensive. And that's Google Scholar. I believe the URL is scholar.google.com

[00:12:36.980] – George

The way that that works is that Google searches the web using its web crawler and finds information that has been published in professional journals and makes that information available and searchable in much the way that libraries, university and professional library databases can be searched. You define your search terms and search in Google Scholar and it will pull up citations. Many of the articles that are published in journals that are only accessible if you have a subscription to the journal or your library has a subscription to the journal or to a database that includes full text.

[00:13:36.280] – George

Many of those articles are posted on the author's web pages in pre-publication form so you can see the original manuscript, for example, for an article. It won't be exactly the same as the final draft, but it will allow you access to much of the content that is published on the Journal's website.

[00:14:04.420] – Janice

Now, what were those five journals?

[00:14:06.550] – George

Again, OK, we've got Technical Communication published by STC. We've got the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication by IEEE Professional Communications Society,  Technical Communication Quarterly, which is published by the Association for Teachers of Technical Writing. And then the two commercial journals that are published by Sage are the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication and the Journal of Business Technical Communication. Those are pricey. The journals published by the professional organizations are available for the cost of membership, which of course has much greater value than only the Journal, although the journals are extremely valuable.

[00:15:00.130] – Janice

So how would somebody find out, like. All right. So say I have a topic and I'm not really finding any relevant current information on research work. Because here's, here's the thing. As practitioners, it's hard for practitioners to find the time to properly do research. That's just the way of work. I mean, as a practitioner, you're under very tight time constraints. Your demands are different. The nice thing about academia is there is time.

[00:15:32.840] – George

They are. 

[00:15:35.240] – Janice

They're allowed bandwidth. And now a lot of times, aren't they expected to also be publishing and doing research as well? 

[00:15:43.610] – George


[00:15:43.710] – Janice

Yeah. So how would I as a practitioner, I can't can't find anything in these journals. How would I reach out and find someone who's doing research right now on what? Is there a way that academia notifies people, “hey, we're doing research on this”? 

[00:16:05.680] – George

Well, yes and no. For special issues or for collections of essays, there are typically calls for proposals that go out. We just sent out a call for proposals for a guest editor for a special issue on enacting social justice. That is one way to know that there is something coming down the pike. But that issue won't be published until March 2022. OK. There's a long lead time. 

[00:16:51.470] – Janice


[00:16:53.820] – George

And the lead time is typically somewhere between 12 and 18 months for journal special issues longer than that, typically four collections of essays published in book form. 

[00:17:10.590] – George

There's another way of reaching out. Probably less, well, certainly less comprehensive, and that is to contact the academic members of your STC chapter, for example, or your STC special interest group. And to reach out to those STC same listservs as a way of finding information as well. There are probably other people out there who are confronting the same problem that you're confronting.

[00:17:56.190] – George

And to reach out via the listserve and to ask folks, “do you know of any research on topic X?” That's certainly one way to do it. But it's again, it's not entirely satisfactory because it's kind of scattershot. 

[00:18:23.660] – George

One way to get research done on a topic of interest–it's not going to happen for the project you're working on next week–

[00:18:35.910] – Janice


[00:18:36.660] – George

But if it's something that your company has confronted repeatedly, that would be to partner with an academic researcher to let them know. Well, that means you have to find somebody whose area of specialization is roughly correspondent to what it is that you want to learn. And, you know, ask them. Have you ever considered looking at this question? Have you ever considered whether designing graphics for international audiences, has changed over the last 10 years, looking at work that was done, you know, 10 or 15 years ago compared to work that is being done today and looking at how users react to the graphics, how helpful they find the graphics, how relevant they find the graphics.

[00:19:51.170] – Janice

So, one of the things I know we talked about before, you and I, was your interest in having practitioners more involved in the journals. 

[00:20:02.590] – George


[00:20:03.580] – Janice

So having them actually writing articles for the journals. And doing what? Like mini-research? What are the types of things that you feel are kind of missing from practitioners being involved in the journals?

[00:20:20.710] – George

The very first thing is to involve practitioners in review of manuscripts. Every time I receive a manuscript, the first thing I have to do after I've logged into my database, I need to locate people who are expert reviewers on a subject. I always try, when possible and relevant, to locate at least one practitioner resource: one practitioner reviewer and one academic reviewer. And so having a knowledgeable, research savvy practitioner who is able to examine a manuscript and respond to that manuscript with helpful criticism, that's a big plus.

[00:21:25.920] – George

I'm always on the lookout for such practitioners. If anybody out there is interested in doing that kind of thing. I'd be interested to know that.

[00:21:35.040] – Janice

Yeah, that's what I was just going to ask is how would somebody say, hey, you know, I'm willing to volunteer my time to help improve these journals and I'm an expert in this field. How would I make myself known? I mean, you know, a certain sphere of people who know a certain sphere of people, but sometimes people just might jump that and just say, hey, list me, I have this expertise and if you need me, I'm here for you.

[00:22:00.150] – Janice

Isn't there a way for people to say, hey, I'm here, Hello?

[00:22:04.450] – George

Absolutely. Send an email to the journal editors. 

[00:22:07.390] – Janice


[00:22:09.540] – George

Let them know that you're interested in doing reviews. I know in the case of my journal, the IEEE Transactions, in the case of technical communication, we've regularly called on practitioners to do reviews. The more academic journals, Technical Communication Quarterly, which tends to very often focus on very theoretical stuff or pedagogical stuff, practitioners may be less qualified to do reviews of those kinds of manuscripts. Maybe. Not necessarily always, because lots of practitioners work as instructors, part time in technical communication programs.

[00:23:04.920] – George

But let editors know that you're interested. And they will be! Probably, I'm guessing. I know I would be delighted..

[00:23:16.450] – Janice

Delighted !

[00:23:18.360] – George

To have volunteers who are experts in particular areas. Like you said, I call on the people that I know. 

[00:23:27.440] – Janice


[00:23:27.580] – George

And I know a lot of folks. But my contacts are not infinite 

[00:23:34.820] – Janice

And sometimes it's nice to get some fresh blood. And my comment to people when they .. you see these aren't like big corporate sponsored journals. Right. So a lot of these organizations do rely on a lot of volunteer work as well. So. 

[00:23:51.940] – George

Oh yeah. 

[00:23:51.210] – Janice

Yeah. So my comment to anyone who usually has a load of criticism is be sure to volunteer to make a difference. Don't just point out that there is a challenge there, be a solution. Right. So volunteers. It's nice to know that the editor is the person to reach. Now, I know you're the editor for at least one journal, right?

[00:24:19.200] – George

Only one at the present time? Right now.

[00:24:22.170] – Janice

But you know, all the editors for the other ones as well.

[00:24:27.030] – George

Yes, although there are transitions in progress. I know personally, all of the folks who are currently editors in chief, but STC is searching for a new editor for Technical Communication. Iowa State University's English Department, which is responsible for the Journal of Business Technical Communication, Charlie Kostelnik has just rotated off. And when I corresponded with him a month or so ago, I meant to ask him who's taking over but I neglected to do that.

[00:25:10.900] – George

But if you go to the journal's web site, it will list the name of the editor. It will provide you with an email address and again, volunteer. That's the best possible thing to do. 

[00:25:27.570] – Janice

Yeah, I agree.

[00:25:29.320] – Janice

So what are some of the current trends in the technical communication themes, like for what research is going on right now? What is it that they..  I mean, is there a theme? Do they tend to gravitate towards one area? Or is it like all over, all aspects?

[00:25:47.500] – George

It's really quite general. I mean, there are some topics that seem to be very popular. Articles on usability are apparent in virtually every journal. Something that I've gotten a bunch of manuscripts on in the last couple of months has been social media. Not surprising, obviously, given the current climate. But, you know, some of those articles have been extremely interesting to me. I kind of dipped my toe in the world of social media, but I'm a Boomer and I'm not the most social media savvy person out there.

[00:26:49.620] – George

But we published an article in 2018 that looked at the influence of Twitter  Tweets on the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

[00:27:07.980] – Janice


[00:27:09.260] – George

That I just found extremely, extremely interesting and I think particularly valuable. But I've gotten, I'd say, in the last four or five months, I've gotten five or six manuscripts that probably accounts for 20-30% of what I've gotten in the time period on some aspect of social media or other. 

[00:27:43.620] – George

But usability, social media, information, architecture, pardon, content management. Those are big areas. And you know, just about anything else that you can imagine.

[00:28:07.330] – Janice

Is there anything in your opinion that's missing, like wouldn't it be great if somebody took on this kind of research, like what would be like a dream, not for you to take it on, but toss it out there to everybody, say, hey, somebody do this. It's missing right now. There's a void. 

[00:28:22.410] – George

That's a good question, I'd have to think about that, I think.

[00:28:26.610] – George

There's nothing that occurs to me immediately because, I mean, the universe is so large, the universe of potential topics. And my immediate concern is what's come over the transom in the last day or two or five. One thing. Pardon me again. One thing that is almost certainly going to be coming up in the next little while and I've already gotten one manuscript on the topic is how do educators respond to the need to offer their courses online, all of a sudden.

[00:29:15.430] – Janice


[00:29:16.210] – George

When they haven't taught online before. 

[00:29:19.260] – Janice

Yeah, that that is. That's an interesting shift. And it's funny when so much was going to online because for me, I'm so used to being online in a university, studying. It was one of those things that I would never have thought would have caused such a challenge for teachers. But it did. 

[00:29:43.930] – George

Yeah, absolutely.

[00:29:45.190] – George

I started teaching online in 1996, so when all of a sudden I saw people going crazy because, oh my God, I've got to take this course which I had planned to deliver face-to-face and all of a sudden, like in a week or two, make it available online. And I've never taught online before. How in the world do I do that? 

[00:30:13.640] – George

But I faced those questions a long time ago and came to whatever solutions, however good those solutions might be, a long time ago. So. It's hard to realize, oh, there are lots and lots and lots of people out there. Who've never done this before. Not only university professors, but particularly elementary and secondary teachers who, probably 99% had never done anything online besides Facetime calls with their friends and family.

[00:30:55.420] – Janice

Right. Can you imagine trying to teach 30 kindergarteners online! That's a challenge

[00:31:03.460] – George

Yeah. One of my nieces just got her very first teaching job, a drama teacher in middle school. And all of a sudden, you know, it looks like next month, when the middle schools in South Carolina start up, she's going to be teaching online. And, you know, she's great face-to-face. How in the world does she, all of a sudden, adjust to having to teach a bunch of fifth and sixth and seventh graders drama without actually being in a room with them? That's a big, big problem.

[00:31:48.530] – Janice

Yeah, yeah. This fall is going to be interesting. 

[00:31:52.420] – Janice

So question. Back to volunteers and doing reviews and stuff. Just because we did have somebody ask a question. What kind of turnaround, like if somebody were to volunteer to be a reviewer, what kind of turnaround is expected?

[00:32:11.720] – George

That's going to depend from one journal to another. IEEE is very sensitive to time. One of the things that I have to report when our articles are published is when was the manuscript originally received? And when was the first decision made on the quality of the manuscript? I ask reviewers to turn manuscripts around in three to four weeks. We provide a rubric that guides them through the review process, asks questions about elements of the manuscript. So our review process is rather tightly time constrained.

[00:33:04.810] – George

But we provide our reviewers with a lot of help in terms of evaluating the manuscript and writing their comments. Not all journals are like that. 

[00:33:18.950] – Janice

So what got you into the field of editing? 

[00:33:24.970] – George

Well, that's a good question. All of my degrees are in literature. English and American literature. When I got to the PhD level, the faculty members that I was working closely with, pardon, did what's called textual editing, which is an attempt to establish an authoritative text of a work.

[00:33:55.800] – George

And I was working with William Faulkner and my dissertation director said this is a novel which has particular peculiarities. It was edited to death when it was originally published. And about a third of the manuscript was lopped off. So the entire manuscript was finally published. But there were lots of problems with the text. And so my task was to produce an authoritative text going back to the original manuscript and trying to establish an authoritative version of the novel. And then to also do a critical study of the book.

[00:34:48.640] – George

Well, when I got to the point where I was looking for a job, I had also done some work with freshman writing courses as a PhD student. And I knew there were lots more jobs teaching freshman comp than they were teaching southern lit, which is my specialty. So I got involved in that and wound up directing the writing center at the university where I was working. And we didn't work just with freshman English students. We worked with students working on all kinds of writing assignments.

[00:35:29.130] – George

And so I got kind of connected with folks in the College of Engineering who wanted to help their students improve the lab reports that they wrote. So that's how I eventually got into technical communication when I decided to leave the academic world and make my fortune, such as it is, in the real world. I thought, well, what can I do? There aren't any jobs for Faulkner experts in industry.

[00:36:06.780] – Janice

Not a whole lot of commercial appeal there. 

[00:36:08.530] – George

Yeah, very. So, because I had done this work with the engineers, I decided the best place to go was technical communication. And so when I was searching for my first job in that field, I marketed myself by saying, well, I have been able to edit fiction by William Faulkner, I think that I can help engineers communicate more effectively with their users. So, it worked, actually. And I spent a number of years as a practitioner doing software documentation and getting involved with STC.

[00:37:04.680] – George

I eventually struck out on my own. My employer offered a buyout that was too good to refuse. And got out on my own. And one of the first nibbles that I had was how would you be interested in applying to edit Technical Communications? So, I applied and I was hired to do that. And I spent 12 years editing that journal. At the same time, I was getting my foot back in the waters of academe, teaching part time, mostly online for Mercer University, Agusta State University, Utah State University.

[00:37:53.680] – George

And eventually Mercer needed someone to direct their Master's program. I had a good professional relationship with the faculty in the TechCom department at Mercer and they asked me to apply. I was hired. I taught there for 12 years. So that's how a Southern lit person wound up in technical communication.

[00:38:26.110] – Janice

That was the journey. So what have you been up to lately?

[00:38:30.660] – George

Well, I retired about four and a half years ago, and as I was getting ready to retire, there was this editing position with the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication that became available. And I thought that would be a pretty good gig for retirement. It will keep my brain engaged and it would be something that I enjoy doing. I really loved my job as a journal editor for STC. And I've been very much involved with the IEEE Professional Communications Society since 1989. So, that was a natural way to kind of ease into retirement. I've been doing that for about four years now and I'm going to do it for another couple years, probably. And, you know, stave off senility

[00:39:42.310] – Janice

Editors are priceless, in my opinion. And there is an art and a magic, in my opinion, to editors. It's just..they're abundantly important. 

[00:39:54.850] – George

Well, it's work that I really enjoy, because it's–to me–it's a matter of helping the author reach their audience more effectively and more directly. An awful lot of us are not as capable of stringing words together into a sentence as we think we are.

[00:40:25.070] – George

One of the, one of the most humbling experiences I had as a graduate student was having one of my professors say (I passed along the draft of an article that I'd written) and he said, “You know, you're not really a very good writer.” And, you know, after my stomach and heart dropped to the floor, I went back and looked at and he had marked up the manuscript and it was it was really very, very illuminating in many respects.

[00:41:05.130] – George

Very humbling. 

[00:41:06.720] – Janice


[00:41:08.850] – Janice

That's the thing is when you turn something into an editor, you have to check your ego at the door because they're going to tell you honestly. But it's amazing how, you know, the difference, right? Because, sometimes when we're writing something, we don't sit down, write the entire thing in one sitting. So our tone may change. How is it editing research papers, as far as, because your tasked aren't you, as an editor with the responsibility, or maybe you take on that responsibility, of trying to make sure that what the researcher is writing, the practitioner can understand.  

[00:41:49.110] – George

Yeah. And that can be daunting, in some respects, because researchers have their own dialect, if you will that can be, mmm, discouraging to audiences that aren't familiar with it. 

[00:42:13.740] – George

When I was editing Technical Communication, I got a letter to the editor from someone who just took one particular article to task for its opaqueness, I guess. And I thought, well, I read that manuscript carefully. I edited it. It was accepted for publication. And I thought that wasn't my reaction at all. And so, and I know there are problems with, you know, reading level tools that tell you the grade level, particular piece of writing. But I, I thought, well, OK, let me see what the grade reading level of this article is. And then I'm just going to pick an article at random from Scientific American and compare them.

[00:43:15.430] – George

And, you know, they were roughly at the same reading level. And so I went back to, you know, comparing them and I thought, well, really the only difference between these two articles is not the clarity of the writing at all, but the fact that the journal article has footnotes or endnotes in this case and the Scientific American article really doesn't. And so, I mean, there is some prejudice, I think, among some practitioners, and I'm thinking it's a relatively small number, that anything with citations in it has to be high and mighty, but it really isn't. They've got a bias against things that have citations, whereas many academics have bias against things that don't have citations.

[00:44:32.270] – Janice

Cite your sources. Yeah. 

[00:44:34.670] – George


[00:44:35.220] – Janice

if you're making a statement. Cite your sources. 

[00:44:38.060] – George

Yes. Precisely.

[00:44:40.310] – Janice

Which, as practitioners, you kind of get out of that habit of doing. Interesting. 

[00:44:47.210] – Janice

So what are some of the recent things that you've worked on that's really kind of stood out to you? That've been interesting. 

[00:44:56.770] – George

As an editor. 

[00:44:58.170] – Janice

Yeah. or Not interesting.

[00:44:59.860] – George

I've been working increasingly with non-native speaker authors. You know, IEEE is an international organization. It's got close to three quarters of a million members all over the world. And increasingly large numbers in Asia and in South America and Africa. It's always had a good number of members in Europe.

[00:45:38.020] – George

So, because it's such a presence in the publishing world, in the world of technology publishing, it's become increasingly a target for publication by scholars in those areas. And that's been the case recently, increasingly recently, with the Transactions on Professional Communication. So we have the increased challenge of authors for whom English is not their first language. Maybe not even their second or third language, which is a humbling thing in itself, because I struggle with my native language sometimes and I'm not very good in the couple of foreign languages that I've studied. 

[00:46:38.660] – George

So, how to help them communicate more effectively in a second or third or fourth language? How to get them to begin to understand that they're dealing with an international audience because most of them have published in their national or regional journals and not necessarily in international journals. So now they need to direct their ideas to people that are half a world away living in a different culture. Both a different mega culture, in terms of the society around them, but also in some respects, a different academic or industrial culture as well. So that's been a challenge.

[00:47:41.220] – Janice

Yeah. Trying to find the common language that both will understand, that common denominator. 

[00:47:49.590] – George

Yes, very much. 

[00:47:52.440] – Janice

That's interesting. 

[00:48:01.730] – George

I see a question from one of the attendees about rewriting the manuscript. 

[00:48:06.550] – Janice

Yeah, what I was just reading? Yeah. 

[00:48:08.880] – George

Do you rewrite? No, I do not rewrite. I try to have as light a hand as possible, not only with non-native speakers, but also with native speakers. 

[00:48:27.320] – Janice


[00:48:27.860] – George

Because I think the author's voice is important.

[00:48:31.310] – Janice


[00:48:34.160] – George

Most of the rewording that I do is rewording for conciseness. 

[00:48:44.060] – Janice


[00:48:45.800] – George

So, you know, making the subject of the sentence, the doer of the action, for example. 

[00:48:52.110] – Janice


[00:48:52.860] – George

Rather than using a “there is” or “there are” or  “such and such was performed”. I tried to make the writing more direct where that will be helpful. But for the most part, it's the author

[00:49:14.320] – Janice

Because as an editor you want the authors to be better authors, right, as well. So minor things are one thing but major…you want the authors to improve. 

[00:49:24.650] – George

Exactly. And when it comes to non-native speaker authors, I have frequently recommended that they find a native speaker who can edit their English to make it conform to the rules of grammar and usage. And, you know, IEEE does have resources available for cost to help authors do that. Many authors have access to someone in their university. You can do that work for them or they have professional connections that can help them out. 

[00:50:17.910] – Janice

Well, I think we're close to time, but I think… Don't you have something coming up in September?

[00:50:25.090] – George

I do. Pam Brewer and I have completely reworked practically from the ground up a book called “A Research Primer for Technical Communication Methods, Exemplars and Analysis” that Mike Hughes, recently retired from IBM, and I wrote about 12 years ago. It is scheduled to be out in September in it's second edition that has been, as I said, extensively reworked, lots of new material. All of the exemplar and analysis chapters are completely new. We've added entirely new articles for each research article type, and new analysis of those articles, of course. 

[00:51:24.560] – George

And we've added a new chapter on usability study methods and a new chapter on the usability study exemplar and analysis. We're really excited about that. It's being published by Taylor and Francis. Again, it should be available in September. And it is directed at a dual audience of students of technical communication, particularly advanced undergraduates and graduate students, as well as practitioners who are interested either in doing research on the job or in being informed consumers of research. So we'll put in a plug for that. 

[00:52:13.940] – Janice

Nice. We'll post that link to that information as well. And of course, anyone who wants to reach out to you can just go ahead and pop you an email, right? 

[00:52:24.760] – George


[00:52:26.000] – Janice

Because, you know, you don't bother with a website now. And so the best way to reach you is LinkedIn or your email. Right?

[00:52:33.650] – George

My email address is hayhoe_g@mercer.edu

[00:52:43.020] – Janice

Wonderful. Well, I want to thank you. It has been a delight talking with you. I've enjoyed our conversation and I'm so glad to have had you here in Room 42 and hopefully we'll have you back again one day.

[00:52:58.230] – George

That would be nice. I enjoyed it

[00:52:59.900] – Liz

So thank you so much, George.

[00:53:02.960] – Janice

Oh! my cats are attacking me from behind now. They've been pretty good this whole time.

[00:53:08.650] – George

My dog hasn't barked once and that's got to be a record, right? 

[00:53:13.400] – Janice

My cats have been pretty good, but now they're starting to attack me from behind. All right. Well, thanks. Thanks for joining us. And I look forward to talking with you again. 


And links to everything are on the event page. Thank you, George. Thank you, Janice, for such a great interview and we appreciate it. 

[00:53:34.490] – Janice

Thanks everybody! 

[00:53:34.570] – Janice

Bye, all!

[00:53:37.050] – George



Thank you for joining us in Room 42.

In this episode

George Hayhoe worked a technical communicator in industry for 17 years, taught for 19 years, and has always spent part his career editing journals like STC’s Technical Communication and the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. He has co-authored and co-edited three books, including “A Research Primer for Technical Communication.”

George says that these three things—professional practice, teaching, and journal editorship—have informed his approach to the role of the technical communicator. In this session, learn more about how practitioners and researchers work together to advance the profession.

Why should practitioners care about research and journals? Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it? We're looking forward to exploring it in Room 42.


Call for proposals for special guest editor of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication March 2022 issue (Applications due 1 August 2020)


IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

STC Technical Communication

Technical Communication Quarterly

Journal of Technical Writing and Communication

International Journal of Business Communication

Journal of Usability Studies

Professional Associations

IEEE Professional Communication Society

Society for Technical Communication

Association of Teachers of Technical Writing

Council of Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication

User Experience Professionals Association

More resources

Hayhoe, G. F. & Brewer, P. E. (2020). A Research Primer for Technical Communication (2nd ed.), Routledge.

Google Scholar › George Hayhoe's Citations

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