The review process of technical reports is nothing but a source of frustration for many professionals; one study shows why this may be and how to fix it.
Many companies are tasked with developing detailed technical documents. According to research done in 2003 by Stephen Bernhardt, the process of circulating, reviewing, and revising these documents is historically inefficient in most work sites. Additionally, the purpose behind the review sessions is also not agreed upon by the many writers and professionals involved in the process; thus, many reviews do not lead to an actual improvement in document quality. Fortunately, there are methods to improve efficiency and save company funds, improve job satisfaction in employees, and ultimately improve the quality and readability of technical reports.
The follow-up study done in 2012 “Missed Opportunities in the Review and Revision of Clinical Study Reports” by Gregory P. Cuppan and Stephen A. Bernhardt addresses the frustration of the review process by investigating the revision process of two clinical study reports within the same pharmaceutical company. Cuppan and Bernhardt began by interviewing twenty-one individuals across the two project teams to assess their attitudes and approaches. During the revision process of both reports, the researchers collected and categorized each edit and suggestion made.
At the conclusion of the review period, the researchers analyzed the reports, looking for new improvements and remaining shortcomings. They found that both reports were lacking in quality and completeness. Using the data they had collected, the researchers gained insights into the reasons for this undesirable outcome.
- The company did not sufficiently communicate expectations to the reviewers. The reviewers would have benefitted from assigned roles and specific goals to accomplish during the review process.
- The reviewers’ lack of preparation left many of them unfamiliar with the document. Being unfamiliar with the documents contributed to unnecessary disagreements between reviewers.
- Many reviewers “failed to leverage their particular expertise because meetings often became bogged down in attending to minor stylistic matters.” (148). Reviewers should have focused less on stylistic details and more on the accuracy and completeness of the report.
The review and revision process does not have to be unpleasant or inefficient for teams of technical professionals. Improving the communication of expectations between management and team members can help the review team reach its full potential. Likewise, all editing teams can benefit from an increased familiarity with documents before review sessions and a firm goal of improving the contents—and not only the stylistic issues—of the document. Writers and editors should take steps to improve their teams in each of these areas, which could lead to significantly improving employee satisfaction and, ultimately, to higher-quality publications.
To learn more about how to make the review and revision process successful, read the full article:
Cuppan, Gregory P., and Stephen A. Bernhardt. 2012. “Missed Opportunities in the Review and Revision of Clinical Study Reports.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 26, no. 2 (April): 131–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651911430624.
—Maddy Abadillo, Editing Research
FEATURE IMAGE BY DYLAN GILLIS
Find more research
Take a look at Liana Sowa’s Editing Research article for more tips on working with scientists and other technical professionals: “Why Scientists and Editors Need A Symbiotic Relationship.”
Read Marilyn K. Florence’s (2003) article to learn more about how scientific writing can be improved through revision and editing: “Learning to Write Like a Scientist: Coauthoring as an Enculturation Task.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 41, no. 6 (October): 637–68. https://doi-org.erl.lib.byu.edu/10.1002/tea.20015.