Composition Dynamics Annotated Bibliography

Composition Dynamics Annotated Bibliography

This page contains annotated bibliographies on various works discussing the dynamics of composition in technical communication.  Entries may cover all forms of composition in the field, whether print or media.

Paradis, James. The operator’s manual in context and in court (1991).  In C. Bazerman & J. Paradis (Ed.), Textual dynamics of the professions – historical and  contemporary studies of  writing in professional communities (pp. 279-305). Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

Paradis argues that operator’s manuals are essential to the success of the average, non-technical “operator-everyman” in the safe and effective manipulation of today’s neo-technical environment; the average person must be socialized into new technological advances in order to exploit them successfully and safely.  Readers will observe both context and legal implications of this “vast body of task-oriented literature” in society by examining two legal case studies concerning the composition of an operator’s manual for two different brands of a gun powder-activated driving tool for construction fasteners, also known as a stud gun. In each case, the level and quality of rhetorical discourse and style used in composition of the operator’s manual affected the ultimate assignment of legal liability for serious user accidents. The cases reveal the ultimate rhetorical effect of different approaches and attitudes toward textual composition: intended and unintended consequences.


Herndl, C.G., Fennell, B.A., & Miller, C.R. Understanding failures in organizational discourse: the accident at Three Mile Island and the shuttle Challenger disaster (1991). In C. Bazerman & J. Paradis (Ed.), Textual dynamics of the professions – historical and contemporary studies of writing in professional communities (pp. 279-305). Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

             The authors explain the influence of organizational communications failures on the well-known accident at Three Mile Island and the Shuttle Challenger disaster. Various organizational social structures within the huge agencies that built or operated each facility – manufacturers on the leading edges of human technology – may have inadvertently catalyzed the communication failures, with disastrous results. The thesis is that analysis of the actual internal memoranda involved should show whether the discourse of the memos could be differentiated by the social structures, and whether the varying features of the discourse could be differentiated by those social groups. Linguistic, pragmatic, and argument analysis are applied to the memos with interesting results.