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What’s Research got to do with it?

What’s Research got to do with it?

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What’s Research got to do with it?

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  1. What’s Research got to do with it? Research Training for Technical Communication Master Students By Jennifer L. Bowie Assistant Professor at Georgia State University For Currents 2007 Saturday March 10, 2007

  2. Overview • Research Definition • Calls for Research • Research in Industry • Research Training in Master Degree Programs • Study Overview • Results & Analysis • Discussion & Questions for You

  3. Research Definition

  4. Research Definition • The goal of research is to “investigate the existence of some phenomenon” (Dumas and Redish 22) • Research is composed of “activities where data is collected and analyzed for the purpose of making generalizations beyond the immediate participants of the study” (Hughes 488) • Research, according to MacNealy's criteria, must: • Be planned in advance • Be collected systematically • Produce a body of evidence that can be examined by others • Research for this study includes: • Empirical research • Qualitative research • Quantitative research • Primary research • Secondary research • User-Centered Design (UCD) and usability testing

  5. Calls for Research • Calls for increased quality and quantity of research: • We need a strong body of research “to be considered a profession” (Sullivan and Spilka 593) • The “development of research is essential to growth as a profession and discipline” (MacNealy 533) • Research must increase in “quantity, quality, and coherence” (MacNealy 533) • The significance of research in technical communication is, and should be, growing (Pinelli and Barclay 526) • Research can create common ground between theory and practice (Pinelli and Barclay)

  6. Research in Industry

  7. Research in Industry • Snapshot of 25 jobs • 13 required the ability to do some form of research (52%) • 2 were unclear, but may require • Most of the remaining 10 may not have stated a need for a researcher, but still may need research capable employees • 100% (3 of 3) jobs requiring a Master’s degree required employees who could do research

  8. Research in Industry: What are they looking for? • “Researches technical information and consults with subject matter experts” (Maximus, Inc., Documentation Specialist) • “Must have experience in interviewing developers, testers and users in order to elicit correct and applicable documentation” (gINT Software, Inc., Technical Writer) • “Use a variety of methodologies: (qualitative and quantitative), throughout the development lifecycle, including: usability lab studies, site visits, rapid/iterative testing, heuristic evaluations, focus groups, surveys, personas, scenarios and other methodologies.” (Amazon.com, User Experience Engineer) • “Collects and analyzes data on user patterns” (Procuri, Inc, Technical Writer)

  9. Research Training in Master's Degree Programs

  10. Study Overview • Follow-up research to Spilka 2005 & Bowie 2005 • Investigation of research requirements of TC programs from STC & ATTW lists • Focus here on Master’s programs • 84 programs in all • 11 not “TC” • 73 programs studied

  11. Results & Analysis • 25 of 73 programs required no classes (34%) • 37 of 73 programs required 1 class (51%) • 7 of 73 programs required 2 classes (10%) • 1 of 73 programs required 3 classes (1%) • 2 of 73 programs had unclear requirements (3%)

  12. Results & Analysis

  13. Results & Analysis • Of the 34% of school with no required research classes: • 60% had classes available for the students to take (15 of 25) • 4% had classes that might qualify (1 of 25) • 36% did not have research classes available (9 of 25) • Thus, 82% of programs either require research classes or have classes available for the students to take (60 of 73) • 14% of the programs do not require or offer research classes

  14. Results & Analysis: Georgia Programs

  15. Results & Analysis Types of classes required:

  16. Results & Analysis Research needed for jobs

  17. Results & Analysis * The other category in the programs includes various classes. I put interviewing into the other category for jobs since it is not a separate category of research

  18. Results & Analysis • Research is required by more than 50% of jobs, but is not required in 38% of programs and not available in 14% of programs • 21% of programs do not require, but do offer research classes • Will students/future employees know enough to take them? • 34% of the research classes offered do not correspond to what the jobs need • More classes on usability testing, UCD, and document design research need to be offered (70% of research jobs need this, but only 23% of classes are in this area) • Classes that include or focus on interviewing are important (needed for 12% of research jobs) • Classes on general English research methods or on secondary research methods do not seem necessary (27% of research classes fit into these categories, but no jobs required this)

  19. Discussion & Questions for You

  20. Discussion & Questions for You • Are your new employees adequately prepared for the research needs of their job? • What types of research classes do you recommend? • What types of research classes are unnecessary? • How many classes are necessary? • How much background should your employee have in research? • How can industry and the academy work together to train our masters students? • Are our programs working to increasing the quality and quantity of our research? • Do our programs respond to the “questions, methods, and directions that are needed for our research” (Spilka 73)

  21. Thank You! Sources: Bowie, Jennifer “Directions, Directives, And Our Programs: How Do We Match Up?” Proceedings of Connecting Programs and Research, Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication. Lubbock, TX, 2005: 60-61. Dumas, Joseph S. and Janice C. Redish. A Practical Guide to Usability Testing Norwood: Ablex, 1994. Hughes, Michael. “Rigor in Usability Testing.” Technical Communication 46.4 (1999): 488-94. MacNealy, Mary Sue. Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999. Pinelli, Thomas E., and Rebecca O. Barclay. “Research in Technical Communication: Perspective and Thoughts on the Process.” Technical Communication 39.4(1992): 526-532. Spilka, Rachel. “Technical Communication Research: A Call for Action.” Keynote at Connecting Programs and Research, Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication. Lubbock, TX, October 20, 2005. Sullivan, Patricia. and Spilka, Rachel. “Qualitative research in technical communication: Issues of value, identity, and use.” Technical Communication, 39.4 (1992), November: 592-606. Jennifer L. Bowie: jbowie@gsu.edu