Technical Writer/Subject-matter Expert Interaction: The Writer’s Perspective, the Organizational Challenge

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Abstract:

Almost a decade ago, Walkowski’s (1991) study of the interaction between subject-matter experts (SMEs) and technical writers focused on the perceptions of software engineers toward technical writers. Her findings gave technical writers insights on how to improve critical relationships with these organizational colleagues. This study partially replicates Walkowski’s (1991) study of technical writer-SME interactions, but instead of collecting data from SMEs, we surveyed technical writers themselves. We report perceptions collected from 31 technical writers and contrast them with Walkowski’s original findings, offering interpersonal and organizational recommendations for addressing tensions between these groups. By examining both the SMEs’ and the technical writers’ perceptions of their relationship, we are able to provide a two-sided view of a dynamic and complex interaction. We also argue that participants in the SME-technical writer interaction cannot fully alter their relationship without the strategic support of their managers and managers from other organizational divisions.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2000

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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