Published on July 14, 2013

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication Call for Submissions:
Spring 2015 Special Issue on Content Management

Guest Editors: Rebekka Andersen (University of California, Davis) and
Tatiana Batova (Arizona State University)

Deadline for Submissions: October 31, 2013

Content management is a set of methodologies, processes, and technologies that let professional and technical communicators create and manage information in small units, such as topics, rather than as entire documents.  Content management is important to professional and technical communication because organizations across industries are increasingly moving from a focus on developing and publishing entire documents to this more granular approach to information development.  As a result, content management also holds the promise of more easily adapting a single text to meet the needs of several audiences, each with distinct needs regarding culture and use.

As a result, communicators who develop various kinds of content, from technical documentation to training materials, are being asked to:

  • Learn new approaches to writing.
  • Design new processes for managing and publishing content.
  • Adopt new authoring and publishing technologies.
  • Take on new roles such as information architects and content strategists.
  • Develop new competencies, such as topic-based authoring, user-experience design, and localization coordination.

In such a way, content management challenges the relations, among others, of writers and texts and writers and technology; of rhetorical theory and text production; and of organizational hiring needs and approaches to training and mentoring professional and technical communicators. It even challenges, arguably, the core values of the profession. These changes are significant and affect not just professional and technical communication practitioners, including technical translation and localization specialists, but also educators and researchers.

Some of the impacts of content management on the profession include the following:

  • Authoring approaches and methodologies. A transition from a document-based to a topic-based approach to information development. In this approach, content is created in the form of stand-alone topics (such as a product description or procedure) rather than documents or books. These topics conform to predefined rules that ensure the topics are consistently structured and can be assembled into different information products (such as a user guide or online help) rendered in different outputs (such as HTML or PDF) for different delivery channels (such as mobile phones or websites). Key components of this approach include, among others, structured authoring, minimalism, writing for reuse, XML schemas, and XML-based standards.
  • Business and publishing processes. A transition from processes that support the writing, review, and publishing cycles of whole documents to processes that support the lifecycle of individual content topics, from how they are created to how they can be reused to how they can be rendered and delivered. Key processes that must be defined include, among others, reuse strategies (what content can be reused and how), workflows (how people and tasks will interact), governance (who has authority to make content decisions at different times and stages), and collaborative writing (how teams members will coordinate and carry out the different phases and tasks of a project). Processes that support translation and localization practices of stand-alone topics, too, must be defined, as limited knowledge of possible contexts for a translated topic can negatively impact translation work processes. Linguistic differences among languages and specifics of a translator’s style can make assembling complete documents problematic; localization (or cultural adaptation) can become virtually impossible.
  • Authoring and publishing technologies. A transition from desktop publishing and help authoring tools to integrated content management systems. Although the market offers several content management systems for professional and technical communicators, including document management systems, web content management systems, and enterprise content management systems, the most radical change has been brought by component content management systems. These systems include XML editors, database platforms, and publishing engines that allow writers to author, review, and then assemble content topics in various outputs for various audiences and purposes. These systems also allow for dynamic publishing, the automatic assembly and delivery of discrete content topics based on user specifications.
  • Competencies of professional and technical communicators. A transition from professional and technical communicators who primarily need core competencies in writing, editing, and document design to professionals needing a broader range of competencies, including topic-based authoring, information design, information architecture, user-experience design, multimedia presentation, localization coordination, writing with translation in mind, project management, and business analysis. In addition, the transition to content management requires professional and technical communicators to have a deeper understanding of, and involvement in, translation and localization practices to ensure quality of multilingual information.

A range of managerial, economic, and technological forces are behind organizations’ growing adoption of content management. Dicks specifically points to new management trends (including value added, reengineering, outsourcing, and globalization) and new methodologies (including distributed work, agile development methods, and Web 2.0 and transparency) as impetuses for the adoption of content management [1]. Changing consumer expectations, too, are a driving force. Users expect to be able to search for just the content they need at any time they want from any location, receive answers to their questions quickly, and they expect those answers to be targeted and tailored.  In addition, users increasingly expect to be able to provide feedback on content and to contribute new content. Content management processes, methodologies, and technologies enable organizations to meet these changing consumer expectations and to adapt to new management trends and methodologies.

Results of three independent surveys suggest that adoption of content management in industry has reached critical mass [2]-[4]. Despite the magnitude of changes brought on by content management, though, little empirical research has been published on content management in technical communication and related fields. This special issue thus aims to contribute to our knowledge and understanding of content management, from the ways in which organizations are designing and implementing content management initiatives to the ways in which users are interacting with and using topic-based content.

Goals of this Special Issue 
We invite you to contribute to the Spring 2015 special issue of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication on Content Management if you have

  • Conducted empirical research on some aspect of a content management initiative or project.
  • Systematically examined a particular content management problem or challenge, or systematically analyzed or evaluated a content management process, methodology, or technology (or set of processes, methodologies, and technologies)
  • Successfully designed and implemented a content management training program or course in an organizational or educational setting
  • Developed research-based heuristics or similar guidelines for carrying out some aspect of a content management initiative or project.

We aim to bring together a set of empirical studies, case studies, and tutorials that offer an in-depth look at the processes, methodologies, and technologies of content management, as well as the local, global, and distributed contexts in which content management activities occur. We are also interested in content management studies that examine questions focused on content quality, usability, and user experience.

Content management topics might include, but are not limited to, content strategy, content lifecycle, structured authoring, Darwin Information Typing Architecture, content management technologies, taxonomy, metadata, information architecture, mobile and multiple-channel delivery, dynamic publishing, social media, metrics/measurement, translation and localization, distributed collaborative authoring, global and remote teams, Agile development processes, content review processes, team roles and responsibilities, content quality, user needs and behavior, training, and program and curricula design.

If you think your study or tutorial is a good fit for this special issue, submit a two-page abstract summarizing your approach and your findings. We will use the abstracts to select authors, who will be invited to submit a complete article. (See below for the timeline for submissions.)

Requirements for Abstracts

If your abstract addresses an empirical study focused on content management: Your two-page abstract should address:

  1. Research questions: what research questions does this study attempt to answer? Why are these important questions to investigate?
  2. Literature review: from what point of view do you examine the content management phenomenon in question (i.e., what theoretical orientation underlies this study)? How does your study fit within the larger body of content management literature, including academic and practitioner conversations?
  3. Methodology: How did you investigate the research questions? Who were your participants, and how did you collect and analyze data?
  4. Results and discussion: what did you learn? How do the results contribute to our understanding and knowledge of content management? What are the possible implications and limitations of your results for information developers and architects, content strategists, educators, and/or other technical and professional communicators? What future work is called for?

If your abstract addresses a case study: The case study may focus on a real content management project or a content management training program or course. Your two-page abstract should address the following:

  1. Case description: what content management context was examined? What problem were participants trying to solve or what challenge were participants trying to overcome? How is this particular case representative of a larger class of cases?
  2. Research questions: what research questions underlie the case study?
  3. Methodology: how was the case study designed and how was data collected and analyzed?
  4. Project particulars: how did participants approach solving the problem or overcoming the challenge? To what extent were participants successful? What did participants learn through the process? What are some implications of this case for content management practice, research, or training?

If your abstract addresses a tutorial: Your two-page abstract should address:

  1. Purpose: what is the goal and value of the tutorial?
  2. Research questions: what research questions underlie the tutorial?
  3. Key concepts: what are the key concepts from the literature and/or work context that guide this tutorial?
  4. Key lessons: what are the key lessons of the tutorial? Here, research should be synthesized into heuristics or suggestions for practice.
  5. Implications: what are the broader implications of the tutorial for the practice of technical and professional communication?

If you have other ideas for relevant articles for this special issue: please contact the editors.

Timeline for Submissions

Drop a note if you’re interested in contributing As soon as possible!
Abstract submission deadline October 31, 2013
Author notification November 30, 2013. Those whose abstracts are accepted will be invited to submit a complete article.
Submission of complete articles April 1, 2014
Review back to authors July 1, 2014
Revised and resubmitted articles submitted for second review September 1, 2014
Final and complete articles submitted December 15, 2014

All abstracts should include the submitter’s name, affiliation, and email address.

For questions and notes concerning the special issue, and to submit the abstract of your proposed article, please send an e-mail to:

Rebekka Andersen at and Tatiana Batova at


[1] S. Dicks, “The effects of digital literacy on the nature of technical communication work,” in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication: 21st Century Theory and Practice. R. Spilka, Ed. New York: Routledge, 2009, pp. 51-82.

[2] S. Abel, “2012 technical communication benchmarking survey summary results,” The Content Wrangler, Feb. 20, 2013. [Online]. Available:

[3] D. Dayton and K. Hopper, “Single sourcing and content management: A survey of STC members,” Technical Communication, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 375-397, 2010.

[4] SDL, SDL research report: Global authoring survey 2009, Maidenhead, UK: SDL, 2009. [Online]. Available: