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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Faculty & Staff Directory

James Stratman, PhD

Associate Professor

Curriculum Vitae​

E-mail: James Stratman
Office Location: 3311
Phone: 303-315-1923
Expertise Areas:
Reading comprehension, cognitive and rhetorical processes in legal, technical and health-risk communication

Education & Degrees

PhD, Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 1988

MA, English Literature and Literary Criticism, University of Cincinnati, 1976

BA, Literature and Philosophy (dual major), Ohio University, 1973


James F. Stratman earned a PhD in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa. in 1988, where he pursued an interdisciplinary course of study focusing discourse linguistics, cognitive psychology, rhetorical theory and educational research in the acquisition and development of written composition skill. Before coming to UCD in 1990 and while completing his dissertation he served for four years as Director of Management Communication at Carnegie Mellon's distinguished Graduate School of Industrial Administration. After earning tenure at UCD in 1995, he served from 1996 to 2008 as Director of UCD's Master of Science degree program in Technical Communication and in 1996 he won the Award for Excellence in Teaching from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). Currently he teaches courses that support the interdisciplinary Legal Studies Minor (LSM) within CLAS and the MA degree in Communication. His courses for the LSM focus on the application of communication research to trial court processes and on the fundamentals of case- and statute-based legal reasoning and legal argumentation in U.S. courts. He also continues to teach technical communication as well as empirical research methods in communication for students in the MA in Communication program.

Professor Stratman has won national awards as well as recognition for his research in composition and technical and scientific rhetoric. Prior to completing his dissertation he collaborated with other faculty and doctoral students at CMU investigating cognitive processes in text revision, research that helped pioneer the use of think-aloud protocol methodology for studying decision making processes during reading and writing. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation and was recognized by the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) which awarded the research team the Richard Braddock Memorial Award in 1986. Later at UCD, with co-author and electrochemist Brad Thacker of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) he won the 1995 Award for Excellence in Technical and Scientific Communication from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) for the best article in historical research and textual study. The article examined the rhetorical dynamics and rhetorical decision making of key scientific groups involved in the infamous cold fusion controversy of 1989. Another collaborative paper with graduate students in the MS in Technical Communication program at UCD analyzed the rhetorical dynamics and miscommunication involved in the Aspen-EPA environmental health risk controversy of 1992, in which the city of Aspen challenged and eventually defeated an EPA risk abatement plan to remove lead mine tailings lying beneath a substantial residential area. This paper was retrospectively honored in the 20th anniversary issue of JBTC (2006) as one of the top six articles published in JBTC during that initial 20 year period.

Professor Stratman's later research has further utilized think aloud protocol methodology to investigate cognitive processes involved in law students' case reading, case analysis and case reasoning skills. This work has been funded by the Spencer Foundation of Chicago and more recently by two successive grants from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC); on these LSAC grants he has collaborated with Professor Dorothy Evensen from Penn State University's School of Higher Education. This work involves designing, validating and field testing multiple-choice assessments of first year law students' case reading, analysis and reasoning skills. His other current law-related research investigates potential violations of federal rules governing employers' pension reduction disclosures under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In this controversial area he has served as an expert witness in two important class action employee lawsuits alleging pension fraud, one of which is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and scheduled for oral argument in December 2010 (Amara et. al. v. CIGNA Corporation and CIGNA Pension Plan). His previous experimental research concerning employee benefit disclosures under ERISA was published in the Industrial Relations Law Journal in 1988 and has since been recognized and cited in two federal circuit court opinions: Alexander v. Primerica Holdings, Inc., 967 F.2d 90, 93 (3rd Cir. 1992); and Chiles v. Ceridian Corp., 95 F.3d. 1505, 1518-19 (10th Cir. 1996).

Select Publications

Stratman, J. (2004). "How Legal Analysts Negotiate Indeterminacy of Meaning in Common Law Rules: Toward a Synthesis of Linguistic and Cognitive Approaches to Investigation." Language & Communication 24 (1), 23-57.

Stratman, J. (2002). "When Law Students Read Cases: Exploring Relationships Between Professional Legal Reasoning Roles and Problem Detection." Discourse Processes 34(1,) 57-90.

Stratman, J. (2000). "Readers' Perception of Bias in Public Education Documents: The Case of Ballot Booklets." Written Communication 17(4), 520-578.

Stratman, J. & Dahl, P. (1996). "Readers' Comprehension of Temporary Restraining Orders in Domestic Violence Cases: A Missing Link in Abuse Prevention?" Forensic Linguistics 3(2), 211-231.

Thacker, B. & Stratman, J. (1995). "Transmuting Common Substances: The Cold Fusion Controversy and the Rhetoric of Science." With Brad Thacker, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 9(4), 389-424.

Stratman, J., Boykin, C., Holmes, M., Laufer, M., & Breen, M. (1995). "Risk Communication, Meta-Communication, and Rhetorical Stases in the Aspen-EPA Superfund Controversy." Journal of Business and Technical Communication 9(1), 5–41.

Stratman, J. (1994). "Investigating Persuasive Processes in Legal Discourse in Real-Time: Cognitive Biases and Rhetorical Choices in Briefs." Discourse Processes 17(1), 1-57.

Stratman, J. (1990). "The Emergence of Legal Composition as a Field of Inquiry: Evaluating the Prospects." Review of Educational Research 60 (2), 153-235.

Stratman, J. (1988). "Contract Disclaimers in ERISA Summary Plans: A Deceptive Practice?" Industrial Relations Law Journal 10(3), 350–380.

Flower, L., Hayes, J. R., Carey, L., Schriver, K., & Stratman, J. (1986). "Detection, Diagnosis and the Strategies of Revision. College Composition and Communication 37(1), 16-55.

Courses Taught

COMM 5510/4510, Usability Testing

COMM 5605/4605, Rhetorical Theory for Technical Communication

COMM 5620/4620, Health Risk Communication

COMM 5681/4681, Communication Issues in the Trial Court Process

COMM 5750/4750, Legal Reasoning and Writing

COMM 3120, Technical Communication

COMM 6205, Empirical Research Methods in Communication