Turner, Roy K., and Kenneth T. Rainey. “Certification in Technical Communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13, no. 2 (2004): 211-34.
In this considerable article, Turner and Rainey discuss the debate of how to best certify technical and professional communicators. Turner and Rainey position the debate as an ethical issue: a profession, if it is to be judged a profession, must have a mechanism by which the profession can be judged and held accountable for its work. All other respected professions have their crediting agencies so for technical communicators to call themselves professionals, they must have some form of certification, licensure, or accreditation. Without such certification, customers may cast doubt over the quality of work offered as there is little visible guarantee that a technical communicator can complete even the simplest of tasks effectively or accurately.
Rather than descend into a circular argument about whether certification or accreditation produces better workers, Turner and Rainey instead ask, “What does the absence of a competencies assessment say about the profession?”. They conclude that the lack of a competencies assessment “tarnishes” the profession by suggesting the profession’s leaders are irresponsible, and that by keeping the public ill informed means the public have little idea about the professional competencies of the profession’s practitioners.
Ultimately, Turner and Rainey believe that an objective, fair, and meaningful system of certification will greatly benefit the profession of technical communication as well as individual technical communication professionals. Especially when compared to other recognized professions, technical communicators owe an ethical obligation to their potential customers and consumers to show an objective, fair, and meaningful certification system.
How do you assess the best way to train technical communicators?
Yvonne, Cleary. “Discussions About the Technical Communication Profession: Perspectives from the Blogosphere.” Technical Communication 59, no. 1 (2012): 8-28.
Yvonne Cleary mines the blogosphere for Technical Communication authors and their blogs to analyze their content and how this relates to the professionalism of Technical Communication. In her analysis, Cleary discusses the trends, impact, and future of technical communication, as found in her chosen blogs. While Cleary did not conduct an extensive or qualitative-controlled analysis of the blogs, she nonetheless established several areas of emphasis for technical communication bloggers.
One of the key foci for Cleary’s article pertains to the role of blogs in forming the “profession” of technical communication. Commenting that professionalism and acknowledgement that technical writing can be a “profession” with all the honors, respect, and accolades that come with the title. Despite positing that professionalism is an important discussion for technical communicators, Cleary finds 18 posts from five bloggers about this issue, the vast majority from one blogger – Bill Swallow.
The themes of the professionalism posts cover both positive and negative trends of professional organizations, such as the Society for Technical Communication (STC). While the blog posters and commentators referenced positives and negatives about the STC, Cleary mentioned how other organizations also existed that fulfilled similar functions to the STC. The take-away from Cleary’s article is the need for some form of professional organization to create social capital, exchange ideas, and to report from industry events. The role of blogs is vital and helps form conversations around the industry.
Are blogs necessary for technical communicators to pursue professionalism? If so, how can bloggers encourage professionalization?