Proceeding with Caution: A Case Study of Engineering Professionals Reading White Papers

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The number of white papers in high-tech industries continues to grow. As they are currently used, white papers represent an intersection of technical documentation with marketing communication. Here, Willerton describes the growing importance of white papers as a genre relevant to technical communicators, and demonstrates a theoretical and methodological approach, schema theory, and case study methodology that could enrich the way some technical communicators undertake audience analysis. He shows how people read and use documents in the workplace, thus offering another window onto real-world workplace practices. Also, he offers one of the delights of qualitative research when he points out that his participants often read white papers sequentially, rather than skimming the contents.

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