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BYU professor wins award for business communications article

The Association for Business Communication honored a Brigham Young University business communications professor with its annual 2002 Outstanding Article Award.

The award was presented to Kristen DeTienne, associate professor of organizational leadership and strategy at the Marriott School of Management, along with coauthors Karl L. Smart at Central Michigan University and Matthew E. Whiting of Microsoft Corporation.

The authors surveyed 400 users of a popular word-processing program to find out how often they used the print and on-line help resources. The researchers also directly observed 18 people using the program in their workplace.

Their research found that even though many businesses have moved to on-line help and documentation to reduce costs, many customers still prefer printed reference material.

"We examined how computer users react to the way information is presented so that companies know how to design information to meet customers' needs," DeTienne says. "We found that documentation is an essential part of actual products, not an add-on or secondary support."

According to their findings, many people, especially less-experienced users, prefer printed material. They discovered the importance of printed help manuals when they heard the term "manual thief" among coworkers-describing someone who borrows and never returns manuals.

DeTienne says, "We wrote this article because the focus of our research is the effect of technology on people in the workplace. We wanted to understand human/computer interaction. There hasn't been much research done in this area."

The paper, "Assessing the Need for Printed and On-line Documentation: A Study of Customer Preference and Use," was published last year in the July issue of The Journal of Business Communication.

Papers considered for the Association for Business Communication's Outstanding Article Award must contribute significantly to scholarship, research and/or pedagogy, demonstrate originality of thought and careful investigation, be extremely well written, lucid and engaging, and be written by members of the Association for Business Communication.

Writer: April Ebbert

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