Specific Guidelines for Creating Effective Visual Arguments in Technical Handouts

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Abstract:

Purpose: This paper analyzes the PowerPoint handouts of 22 engineering undergraduate students to establish criteria for judging the persuasive capabilities of the students' visual argument in handouts that are expanded versions of PowerPoint slides used for presentations. Specific guidelines on how to create effective visual arguments that are useful as slides meant for presentations cannot be used as handouts.

Method: The criteria were derived primarily from Doumont's (2002) three laws of professional communication that suggest how to combine rhetorical and visual elements to form coherent arguments.

Results: The results show that Doumont's laws are helpful in judging the persuasiveness of the students' visual arguments. In addition, the weaknesses in the students' visual arguments applied to all three laws, which is in line with Doumont's view that the laws have an order of precedence.

Conclusion: The guidelines in this paper can help practitioners convert their slides into handouts more effectively and encourage teachers to spend more time teaching visual argument in the classroom.
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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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