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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Ann Brady

Committee Member 1

Robert Johnson

Committee Member 2

Karla Saari Kitalong

Committee Member 3

Charles Wallace


This dissertation explores the extent to which older adults are taken into consideration as audience in the field of technical and professional communication. Technical communication research and usability studies suggest that information designers should always focus on audience analysis and audience needs to produce technical materials that have a high degree of usability. However, there has not been sufficient study of usability in relation to information design for older adult audiences in the technical and professional communication field. My study aims to contribute to bridging this gap by incorporating age (a generally overlooked demographic factor) into usability and information design. By taking an interpretive hermeneutic approach, the dissertation examines and analyzes articles on older adults published in seven usability and technical communication journals. Based on genre categories and purposes, the project, then, heuristically studies the informational document genres collected from various organizations that serve older adult populations in the U.S. Using the genre-based framework, I analyze textual features of the genres to investigate the extent to which design elements are deployed rhetorically to enhance information usability. The dissertation contributes to the areas of rhetoric, usability, and information design in technical and professional communication research and pedagogy. It calls upon technical communication instructors to take older adults into consideration as audience and change the academic framework to afford students opportunities to explore more effective user-centered design approaches needed for better design and documentation.