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Short description

Professional documents can be distinguished from other written texts (such as narrative or expository texts) not only on the basis of their diversity (instructions, procedures, technical literature, administrative files, correspondence, memos, daybooks, forms, etc.) or the variety of media used (paper documents, electronic files, etc.), but also on the basis of their purpose: theses documents are designed in order to be used. They involve at least one writer and one or more readers, who may be users, clients, correspondents or colleagues. The intended recipients may be professionals or, in the cases of administrative documents or instructions for use, members of the public. In any event, it is crucial for both the organisation and the user that the information they convey be efficiently communicated (Pander Maat & Lentz 1994, Janssen & Neutelings 2001, Alamargot, Terrier & Cellier, 2005, 2007, Pander Maat 2007).

During the last thirty years or so, several studies have been conducted in cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics and ergonomics, in a bid to identify the cognitive processes involved in the processing of technical documents (computer documentation, online help, instructions for use, administrative forms, patient information leaflets, policy papers, press releases, etc.). These studies have led to a better understanding of these kinds of processes, differentiating them from those used to produce or understand other kinds of text, including narrative (novels, reports, etc.) and didactic ones (textbooks, encyclopaedias, etc.). They have allowed the development of models describing the processes and interactive mechanisms implied in the processing of such documents (e.g., Dixon, Harrison & Taylor, 1993; Ganier, Gombert & Fayol, 2000; Guthrie, Bennett & Weber, 1991; Kieras & Bovair, 1986; Wright, 1999; Wright & Wilcox, 1978, Janssen & Neutelings, 2001).

Accordingly, the main goal of the Working Group 3 will be to enhance the design and quality of technical documents by (i) studying their production (e.g., professional writers’ strategies) and reception, (ii) producing recommendations based on these findings, and (iii) designing methods and tools (for example, softwares) helping professionnal writers to assess the quality and usability of technical documents.


Last update : 18 January 2009


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