Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Keith Grant-Davie


Keith Grant-Davie


Lisa Gabbert


Keith Gibson


Bradford Hall


David Hailey


Professional communication programs must be aware of the complexities and nuances of contemporary global communication and adapt their instruction to reflect these realities. Thus, there is a need for research efforts in global communication that provide insight into this type of communication.

This dissertation is a study of the language of collaboration and cooperation in professional and global contexts. Using Burke’s theories of identification and terministic screens, cooperation theory, activity theory, and a brief historical perspective on the European Union, I conducted a rhetorical analysis of Bologna Process documentation to study how this large and diverse membership is evolving and moving toward identification. Specifically, I explored the answers to three questions:

  1. How were the common goals of the Bologna Process rhetorically developed in the ministerial communiqués?
  2. In what ways was the goal of democracy or equal representation demonstrated in the documentation?
  3. How did members negotiate between self-interest and the best interests of the group?

In professional communication where specificity and clarity often dominate conversations regarding effective writing, the Bologna Process demonstrates the opposite. Vague terminology is one of the most noticeable rhetorical aspects of the ministerial communiqués. Preliminary readings may deem such documents as political documents intended to deceive readers or mask accountability, but further analysis into the rhetorical situation of the Bologna membership indicate vague terminology can be seen as a way of giving members ownership of the Process and investing in the welfare of the group.

Further analysis also indicates that vague terminology and document hierarchy can create a democratic environment by encouraging social connections. Because working groups must continually reinterpret the language in the ministerial communiqués, the abstract and ambiguous terms in the communiqués invites participation from all members to debate and discuss the language from a standpoint of self-interest as well as the group’s interest.

Effective collaboration and cooperation may not always be the result of clear directives as is often taught in professional communication courses. Instead, the Bologna Process documentation demonstrates that vague terminology may be a rather effective strategy for diplomacy and for encouraging democracy, especially with diverse multinational group members.




This work made publicly available electronically on September 20, 2012.