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Discourse interns use to make sense of work and professional life in organizations

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  1. Discourse interns use to make sense of work and professional life in organizations Mark Aakhus William Voon Rutgers University

  2. The Setting • Interns were asked to write about dilemmas they experienced at work and in professional life • They completed an online form composed of 5 questions • What is the situation and what is the dilemma? • What question do you have about handling this dilemma? • What advice may others typically offer to solve this dilemma? • What do I think should be done in this situation? • How has this situation influenced your beliefs about how communication works at work or in professional life? • Research Question: • What do they talk about when writing the updates? • What are the implications for understanding knowledge management?

  3. Data • 6 Semesters of contributions • Corpus of 1,168,765 words • 1,626 updates, 471,780 words • 7,661 responses, 696,985 words

  4. Approach to Analysis • Focus on “Topics” in Updates to assess what interns talked about • Top nouns from Intern Corpus • Content words are simple indicators of how interns represent their experience • Comparison with top nouns from Business Corpus • Analysis of Topics - “Key”ness of terms • Compare Topics with Intern Corpus • Compare “Quadrants by Popularity” with Intern Corpus • Distribution of Topics by Top Nouns and Keywords • “Popularity” of topics containing nouns/keywords • Focus on “Questions” in updates to assess interns orientation • Analysis of Question form • Analysis of Modal Verbs

  5. Top nouns in Intern Corpus Noun Total Updates Responses

  6. Do interns engage in “business” discourse? • Since interns were based in organizational settings, we use “business discourse” as a point of comparison to understand intern’s discourse. • Compare top nouns with Mike Nelson’s Business English Corpus, top 100 most key words list (http://users.utu.fi/micnel)

  7. Top Nouns – Intern versus Business Corpus Intern Corpus Business Corpus

  8. Interns’ use of “business” terms • Interns use some of the top terms from the business corpus • work, time, people, thing, company • Tend not to use ‘business of business’ terms • business, market, services, product, price, system • Instead they use terms that emphasize interpersonal relations • boss, job, supervisor, internship, situation • This suggests that the interns do not frame their experience in terms of the business of business.

  9. The Interpersonal Dimension • Frequent words in updates when further analyzed in terms of unusual frequency relative to the corpus further reveals an orientation that: • Attends to the Interpersonal • Attends to the interns immediate social environment • Attends to struggles with superiors and peers

  10. “Key” terms in Topic - relative to Corpusderived using Wordsmith Tools

  11. “Key” terms in Topic – Top versus Bottom-half Top-half Bottom-half

  12. Top Nouns and Keywords in Topics – Popularity by Response

  13. Questions about Dilemmas • The questions interns pose about dilemmas signal their orientation. • Questions were examined by looking at word choice in the questions they posed about the dilemmas they reported. • How is the question set up (e.g. who, what, where, when, etc.)? • What modal verbs are frequently used?

  14. Ways interns pose questions– Analysis of the Question element Question Frequency

  15. Analysis of Modal Verbs by Update Element

  16. Types of questions interns pose about their dilemmas • Questions are dominated by “should” • Even “how” and “what” questions collocate with should • Modal verb frequency – “should” outnumbers “could” • Suggests a “rule” rather than a “possibility” orientation

  17. Discussion • Interns orientation toward the interpersonal • Represented by the content words (nouns and verbs) they use to write their dilemmas • Evident frequency of response to updates with topics containing key nouns. • Frame interpersonal in terms of tensions • Seek appropriate and definitive advice more than alternatives/options • Use conversational, vernacular expressions to talk about work • They don’t use “business of business” terms • They tend not to use theoretical terms from the communication discipline • Networks, proxemics, face, cognition, etc.

  18. Implications for KM • System Design: • Provision of different update elements help contributors articulate various "facets" of the tacit, thus facilitating its explication. • Methodology: • Demonstrated a methodology to analyze a "body" of discourse. The approach could readily be extended to analyze the discourse of a "Community of Practice" to articulate aspects of their "Common Knowledge". • Further Research: • Analyzing patterns of participation with what is "talked" about in online discussions, insights could illuminate the issue of "inclusion" and hence the broader dilemma of knowledge sharing.