"A Descriptive Survey of Technical Editors"

Elizabeth Bowen, Melinda L Kreth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research problem: The purpose of the study was to fill gaps in our knowledge about technical editors’ work practices and perceptions, knowledge that might be useful for teachers and practitioners, as well as current and prospective students. Research questions: (1) What work activities do technical editors engage in? (2) How do people become and progress in careers as technical editors? (3) What do technical editors perceive about the complexity of their work and its value to themselves and others? Literature review: The literature review focuses on previous surveys of technical editors, which have tended to focus on technology-related issues and been largely limited to samples obtained from the Society for Technical Communication. Methodology: A link to an online survey was sent to 32 professional organizations for technical and other professional, nonliterary, and nonjournalism editors. The leadership of each organization was asked to forward the link to its members; 12 complied, with a resulting 253 respondents. Responses to closed-ended questions were tabulated, while responses to the open-ended questions were analyzed thematically. Results and conclusions: The results revealed a broad range of job titles, disciplinary and professional fields, genres and media, editing-related tasks, and extent and type of collaboration. Respondents perceived as useful several forms of academic preparation, personality traits, and attitudes. About half the respondents had become editors through deliberate preparation during college (direct route) and half had not (indirect route). Thus, one implication of the results is that college students majoring in the sciences and other technical fields (indirect route) might be attracted to complementary minors and certificate programs in technical communication/editing. The sample was obtained from among a broader range of technical editors than samples used in previous surveys but was relatively small and, therefore, nongeneralizable. Future surveys should strive for a larger sample size and include questions about a wide range of demographic variables that can be correlated with the independent variables.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 2017


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