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An Analysis of Student Comments in Comprehensive Editing

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Purpose: A substantial skill in comprehensive editing is the ability to write constructive comments to the author. This study provides a view into how students make comments during a comprehensive edit of a technical document.

Method: Undergraduate technical editing students performed a comprehensive edit of a report. Data were derived from the editorial comments students made during the edit. Comments were coded for level of the comment (global, paragraph, or sentence), phrasing of the comment, and quality of the comment. A total of 132 comments were coded.

Results: Both effective and ineffective commenting habits were observed. Students were found to make a high percentage of paragraph-level comments and a low percentage of global and sentence-level comments. Most of the comments were rated as useful to an author. Looking at specific problem areas, most students missed commenting on four major problems within the text. The students seemed to be using a linear editing style of simply moving through the document from beginning to end, rather than using a top-down editing style or multiple passes.

Conclusions: When given instructions to perform a comprehensive edit, most students made comments that addressed global and paragraph-level issues, rather than sentence-level or copyediting issues. However, the overall quality and usefulness of the comments varied widely. As part of improving both writing and editing skills, technical communication pedagogy needs to focus more on overall document structure and how to structure sections within a document.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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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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