Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Writing :: TCQ special issue on contemporary research methodologies in technical communication

McNely, B., Spinuzzi, C., & Teston, C., Ed. (2015, January). Technical Communication Quarterly 24(1), a special issue on Contemporary Research Methodologies in Technical Communication.

This is another entry in my series on writing. Previous entries have focused on my articles, but this one is about the TCQ special issue that was published this month, a special issue on research methodology.

First, the background. Brian and Christa had met at the 2010 Watson Conference and had become interested in putting together a special issue on research methodologies in technical communication. TCQ had recently called for people to submit proposals for special issues, and it hadn't put out a special issue on this topic since 1998. So Brian and Christa contacted me in October 2010 (!) to see whether I'd like to collaborate with them on the special issue.

They caught me at the perfect time, since I had been thinking about editing another special issue anyway. We collaborated—and it was a surprisingly easy collaboration—to put together a CFP and submit it. By April 12, 2011, it was accepted—with a publication date four years away, in January 2015! This was a pretty long lead time; we had hoped to publish by 2013 so that we could make a big deal of the 15th anniversary of the previous special issue. But the long lead time presented its own advantages, since we could take our time publicizing and targeting different possibilities.

As I mentioned, the entire project was a very easy collaboration. We started tracking milestones in Asana, but it seemed like overkill, so we tracked milestones with the CFP instead. We coauthored in Google Docs and tracked reviews in Google Sheets. My coauthors were generous, sharp, on time, and always on the ball, and we distributed tasks as they came in. Although the editors are listed alphabetically, we all contributed equally. Overall, a great experience.

The special issue itself was a great idea—I can say that without bragging, since it was Brian and Christa's. Technical communication is continually facing new research situations, so it requires new (or new-to-us) methodologies and methods. We were fortunate enough to receive papers with relevant work on visualizing sociotechnical work; addressing the messy space of cross-cultural research; and analyzing genre with statistical techniques. We were also very fortunate to convince Davida Charney to write an overview of research trends in technical communication (Brian's idea, I think). The three editors came up with several suggestions for books to review, then boiled them down to the selections you see in the journal issue.

Finally, we coauthored an introduction to the special issue in which we highlighted changes in theories, methodologies, and methods from 1998 to the present. (At this point, I started really seeing some gaps in my knowledge of specific strands in the recent literature. Fortunately, my coauthors were able to fill those gaps—and now I have a list of articles to read in order to catch up.)

Overall, this special issue was probably the least stressful of the three in which I've been involved. I credit my collaborators, who made this project easy, useful, and worthwhile. I hope you find this special issue to be useful too!