Toward Integrating Our Research Scope
Technical communicators have recently become interested in user-centered design (UCD) for designing and evaluating technical genres. Yet, a critical examination of the field methods of UCD suggests that they suffer from unintegrated scope: an undesirably limiting focus on a particular level of scope (either the macroscopic level of human activity or the mesoscopic level of goal-directed action) in their theoretical underpinnings and data collection and analysis. This focus is often paired with the assumption that this particular level of scope causally affects what happens at the other levels. Both the focus and the assumption are at odds with sociocultural theories of human activity. This article lays out the problem of unintegrated scope and examines it through critical analyses of two field methods used in UCD research. It concludes by proposing an integrated-scope research methodology for UCD research, with roots in both sociocultural theory and the central issues of technical communication.