Broadly, my research examines how our understanding of chronic illness and chronic pain is shaped by the information age. What does it mean to engage with health and medical information online and how can we prepare students to read and write across multimedia contexts? Primarily, I pursue research that examines the rhetorical dimensions of popular and technical health discourses. My research combines rhetorical and qualitative research methods to investigate chronic conditions such as Lyme Disease and diabetes, conditions in which engaging productively with information is crucial. My dissertation, The Empowerment Paradox: Rhetorics of Lyme Disease and the Future of Chronic Illness, examines digital public and professional genres to consider how patients are persuaded to conduct research, share their health information, and seek expert medical care. To better understand the contradictory claims emerging from social media platforms, healthcare providers’ clinical websites, government websites, and peer-reviewed medical journal articles, I conduct rhetorical analyses of digital media as well as qualitative interviews with patients. Selections from this project appear in articles in College English (forthcoming) and Peitho.
This research builds on my award-winning article in Technical Communication Quarterly, co-authored with Jennifer Edwell and Jordynn Jack. The article, “Healing Arts: Rhetorical Techne as Medical (Humanities) Intervention,” shares results from a mixed-methods, interdisciplinary writing study about diabetes, in which rhetoric and composition scholars partnered with team of clinicians and health scientists to investigate the relationship between writing as a practice and successfully managing diabetes. In this article, we analyze participants’ writing from eight workshops in addition to their pre- and post-study blood glucose and surveys about their perceptions of life with diabetes. We found that writing allows people to make sense of their struggles with diabetes and may be particularly useful for people who have been recently diagnosed.
My interest in health and medical writing extends into pedagogical research, as evidenced in my ongoing work on STEM writing, research, and transfer across academic disciplines. My co-authored article in Journal of Medical Humanities outlines the benefits of integrating both humanistic and scientific research methods into undergraduate health humanities courses, which we argue are an ideal site for scholarly research training. Since health humanities research draws on humanistic, social science, and natural science research methods, we urge college teachers to take advantage of campus resources and create assignments that prompt students to critically experiment with and select research methods to answer urgent public health questions. Additionally, I have served as a co-investigator for The Genre Project, a writing across the disciplines study led by Dr. Jane Danielewicz and Dr. Jordynn Jack and funded by a CCCC Research Initiative Grant. This project examines syllabi, assignments, and interviews with faculty from across the university curriculum to determine both the assigned genres and the corresponding skill sets that are expected of students over the course of their undergraduate careers. We have drafted two articles that analyze the project’s results, which we plan to submit in winter 2019.
I enjoy talking about my research at local and national conferences. Recently, I’ve presented my work at the Association for Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) Conference, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), and the Rhetoric Society of America Conference.