"From Logocentrism To Ethocentrism:

"Historicizing Critiques of Writing Research"

Davida Charney

Technical Communication Quarterly 7.1 (1998) 9-32.


Since the 1960s, attitudes toward empirical research on writing, including research on technical/professional writing, have shifted from encouragement to resistance. This essay traces these shifts in light of changes in writing research, psychology and the rhetoric of science. In composition studies, an initial mild uneasiness about "scientism" intensified with the rise of process models, suggesting a Romanticist defense of the mystique of creativity. More recent post-modernist denunciations of scientific methods as immoral have other Romanticist overtones. In technical communication, a long-standing interest in workplace writing practices allowed a smoother integration of empirical analysis with descriptive studies of writing contexts. However, as in composition, recent critiques in technical communication suggest that empirical methods should not be employed. These critiques too tightly circumscribe the values that may be considered humanist and cut off important avenues of inquiry and critique that historically have advanced both the sciences and humanities.