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Areas of Focus

  • Design thinking approaches
  • Digital literacy
  • Multimodal design
  • Collaboration and emergent learning

Ongoing Projects

  • Open-access collection: Keywords in Design Thinking; Keywords in Making & Maker Culture
  • Books: Collaborative writing––guides for students and workplace teams; UX writing
  • Journal articles: Design thinking in social innovation; multimodal advocacy projects; collaborative research methods


2022 – Designing Technical and Professional Communication: Strategies for the Global Community (Routledge/Taylor & Francis) Order here

DTPC coverApplying a design thinking framework for solving problems and fostering innovation, this concise and accessible textbook introduces students to the core skills, knowledge, and habits of successful technical communicators who work in the diverse, flexible, and mobile workplaces of the 21st century. Four sections provide concrete guidance for communicating in the global community, managing projects through design, designing content for audiences, and applying design to technical and professional communication. The book presents strategies for communicating professionally and ethically across disciplines, cultures, levels of expertise, and languages, not just internationally but also among diverse populations within a city or region. It integrates advice throughout on communicating in digital spaces and social media as well as exploiting such technologies such as content management systems and workplace messaging apps.

2021 – Design Thinking in Technical Communication: Solving Problems through Making and Collaboration (Routledge/Taylor & Francis — ATTW Book Series) Order here

9780367478216-2This book modernizes technical communication pedagogy and practice by highlighting the connections and overlaps between design thinking, making, and technical communication. It takes advantage of the recently popularized technology-powered DIY culture called “the Maker Movement” to forward the argument that novice invention can facilitate cutting-edge innovation through user-centered design and collaboration. This book examines the underlying design thinking principles in maker culture that enable social innovation while offering opportunities to cultivate empathy and creative confidence in technical communication students and practitioners. The author draws from expert interviews and three case studies of makerspace development, pedagogical deployment of design thinking, and collaboration in technical communication. These investigations reveal the values of design thinking methodologies for teaching and practicing user-centered design. The author argues for a future of technical communication that sees its constituents as leaders in radical innovation to solve complex problems. This book provides pedagogical as well as practical frameworks to achieving this goal.

2021 – Collaborative Writing Playbook: An Instructor’s Guide to Designing Writing Projects for Student Teams (with Joe Moses) (Parlor Press) Order here

Revised Book CoverDesigned to meet demand for tools that help instructors infuse more writing into their courses without increasing their paper workload, the Playbook takes collaborative writing to a new level of productivity and learning. It provides a flexible model for collaborative writing that can be adapted for student projects of any scale. Instructors of composition and technical writing may find this book to be a resource for designing writing and scaffolding activities that help students build confidence in team projects. This book is based on research funded by the Writing Across the Curriculum program and supported by the Center for Educational Innovation at the University of Minnesota.

Recent Publications

Theses & Dissertation

Tham, J. (2019). Multimodality, makerspaces, and the making of a maker pedagogy (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. PDF available upon request.  

Tham, J. (2014). Power and the platform: A phenomenological approach to understanding rhetoric and politics in composition massive open online courses (Master’s thesis). Culminating Projects in English, #47. Retrieved from 

Tham, J. (2014). Personality and advertising appeals: A new look on the utility of need for cognition (Master’s thesis). Culminating Projects in English, #48. Retrieved from