Schreiben im Ingenieurberuf : Eine qualitative Langzeitstudie

  • Writing in engineering : a qualitative long-term study

Kux, Christian; Jakobs, Eva-Maria (Thesis advisor); Niehr, Thomas (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : RWTH Aachen University (2022)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2022


The dissertation is part of the research field of writing in the workplace. In particular, it addresses the following research gap as postulated by Jakobs and Perrin (2014: 19) "Future writing research has to develop a more inclusive and systematic understanding of the environments in which writing takes place and with which it interacts". This gap is investigated with a focus on written parts of the work of engineers. In addtion, the study examines and compares two professional fields: engineering in science and business. The investigation is designed as a long-term study. To the knowledge of the author, there is a lack of such investigations on this topic; most studies from the field only provide short-term ‚snapshots‘ on writing in the workplace. The long-term study examines four research questions: - Research question 1: What characterizes the editing of written work components among engineers and what current challenges of text production do engineers face? - Research Question 2: How do domains, time periods, and work experience affect the professional writing among engineers? - Research Question 3: How are engineers prepared for or supported in managing writing-related tasks? - Research Question 4: What influence do disruptive events have on text-production among engineers? The corpus of data collected for the analysis of this thesis covers a period of 18 years. The surveys were conducted at different points within this period. An initial thesis of the long-term study is that contexts and person-related variables change over time and that these changes can affect written tasks and their completion. Accordingly, the comparison of samples collected at different points in time is directed toward evidence of the stability or variance of phenomena over time. A variance may mean that a phenomenon occurs with different weights and/or that trends emerge. The dissertation project is empirical-exploratory in nature. The database comprises 229 interviews, 145 hours of audio material, and 2059 transcript pages. The starting point is formed by interviews from the Aachen corpus from 2004 to 2018 (112 interviews), which were supplemented by further surveys in subsequent years. The evaluation adopts qualitative content analysis (Mayring 2010) for several dimensions: comparison by domain, the date of the survey and domain, and professional experience groups. The classification, interpretation, and discussion of the results are extend Jakobs' (2007) context model of workplace writing. The results provide a detailed insight into the subject of the study. They confirm the conceptualization of professional writing as a strongly domain-specific activity coined in the 2010s, which has undergone partly continuous and partly disruptive change over the period under consideration (2004 to 2021). The sub-studies capturing disruptive changes during the Corona pandemic are new and unique in their kind. Evaluation by time shows strong effects: There are rather few constant phenomena, such as standard writing tasks and their relevance to the completion of work and to career trajectories. Dynamics vary. Changes can be more or less continuous as well as disruptive (e.g., during the corona pandemic). Under "normal conditions," i.e., during periods without disruptive contextual changes, they become weaker or less noticeable from the inside out relative to the shells of the contextual model. In times of disruptive change (Corona study), the effects are similarly strong at different levels (organizational, workplace-related, individual-related).The strongest differentiating factor is the domain in its embedding in superordinate socio-economic, cultural, and temporal contexts. Text-production changes to different degrees and at different rates depending on the domain. The economic domain shows a greater dynamic than the scientific domain. The domain-specific differences result in particular from the motives or occasions du to which writing takes place. The influence of work experience on workplace writing is significant. However, it manifests itself primarily in domain-specific ways. Representatives of both domains see a considerable need for action in terms of training and further education for career starters as well as for the course of a professional career. On the one hand, the results of the dissertation allow a deeper understanding of the subject area and its description. On the other hand, they imply - as all research does - a need for further research. This includes studies in which the same individuals are interviewed at different points in time on the same subject as well as studies that accompany emerging subdomains. Studies on many other domains and subdomains are lacking. Further studies would have to clarify how text-productive activity differs depending on the industry (e.g., chemical industry versus IT company), the type of company (e.g., sole proprietor, SME, corporation), professional roles, and organizational-functional units (written work shares of managers and trainers, in construction, production, sales, and marketing) to be able to develop training and continuing education programs that are as demand-oriented as possible.