Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 71, Issue 16

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 71, Issue 16
From: Charlotte Claussen <charlottefuture -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 17 Sep 2011 12:53:21 +0200

PhD in technical writing

Porrello, Leonard wrote:

Scientific disciplines and possibly engineering excepted, I tend to
think a PhD is a disadvantage when it comes working in the trenches.
As we all know, "PhD" stands for "Doctor of Philosophy." Philosophy is
a predominantly theoretical endeavor that doesn't necessarily
translate into practical ability. And as far as technical writing is
concerned, I think a PhD is counterproductive, on several levels, for
anyone not interested in a career in academia. Having a PhD in English
or technical writing proves that one has mastered at least one facet
of English or technical communications theory. It in no way proves
that one can work competently as a technical writer or manage a
technical writing group.

This is in line with a common misunderstanding that you are either
good in practical work OR in theoretical work. Although this is true
for some people, it is plain wrong to call a PhD a disadvantage.
Research is all about gaining knowledge, and knowledge can never be a
disadvantage. (while being arrogant and not listening are major
disadvantages in any work environment!)

If we want technical writing to be a serious field we should encourage
more research in the area, we should influence the research questions,
and we should implement the new valuable knowledge in our work. True,
some people are only good with narrow theoretical ideas, but they
could still obtain valuable findings, that the more practical minded
writer could benefit from. Or, if one researcher's findings are not
directly transferable to practical ability, it might instead be useful
for another researcher who's work is directly implementable for
technical writers.

In my opinion, if theory and practical work are opposites, there's a
reason to revisit either our theoretical claims, our way of working,
or both.

Best regards,

Charlotte Claussen
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