tekom - Europe

How do YOU search for existing knowledge? IUNTC Meeting Explores Search Strategies in Technical Communication  

Yvonne Cleary

Dr Kim Sydow Campbell led the most recent meeting of the International University Network in Technical Communication (IUNTC) on June 14th, 2022. In this meeting, Kim explored this question: “How do YOU search for existing knowledge?” This is an important question for researchers, who need to be sure they have access to the breadth of published research about a topic. It is an important question for industry practitioners, who need to ensure they can access the most up-to-date information for their work projects and practice. And it is an important question for teachers, who need to help students develop systematic and comprehensive search strategies. 

During the first half of the meeting, Kim provided some background to the topic. Researchers in some fields (e.g. medical researchers) use a standard methodology for systematic literature reviews. Those reviews are then available as guidance to practitioners. In contrast, researchers in Business, Professional, and Technical Communication (BPTC) tend to have less systematic approaches when conducting literature reviews. They use multiple databases and, because of the expanding range of journals, they do not always know the extent and focus of recently published work. They conduct integrative literature reviews infrequently, and these are rarely available to practitioners. Thus, there is relatively little research-based guidance for BPTC researchers. There is also a lack of shared knowledge between academics and industry practitioners, and a lack of understanding about how trade publications and other industry sources are used in practitioner and academic research. 

The second half of the meeting involved a lively and rich discussion among participants, both industry practitioners and academics, about our literature search methods. Some themes that emerged from that discussion included: learning from other disciplines like medicine, where the PRISMA framework is an accepted standard; the importance of including international journals in our searches; and the variety of sources with up-to-date content, including blogs, conferences, and dissertations. A key takeaway from the meeting was the need for shared guidance about where knowledge is held and how to access it.

Dr Kim Sydow Campbell is Professor of Technical Communication at the University of North Texas, USA. She has published several books and book chapters, and more than 40 peer reviewed journal articles. She was editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication journal from 1998 to 2008. She is the recipient of multiple awards. This year, she was awarded the Society for Technical Communication’s  Jay R. Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication. 

The IUNTC will take a short break over the summer. We return in the Autumn with an exciting meeting schedule! 




21 September

Dr Suvi Isohella

Technical communication teaching projects: usability studies and the TAPP project


October (date TBC)

Prof Sissi Closs and colleagues

Developing a Master's in Communication and Media in Kenya


17 November

Dr Michael Meng

How to integrate research into the TC curriculum: an experience report and some lessons learned


15 December

Dr Constance Richter

Designing accessible technical communication content


To join the mailing list for meeting notifications, contact Dr Daniela Straub (d.straub@tekom.de) or Dr Yvonne Cleary (yvonne.cleary@ul.ie).