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For this unit, students will compose a popular health article for a major news source of their choosing and then “translate” that article into a digital video essay to make it even more engaging and accessible to a non-expert audience. Health and medical professionals are often asked to translate complex, jargon-heavy information to non-specialist audiences, including patients with varying literacy levels, advocacy groups, policy makers, drug company advertising executives, and more. This unit requires students to become an expert at reading and interpreting professional journal articles. They will attend to many different ethical concerns, including how to persuasively and honestly present biomedical and/or visual data. They will then consider concepts related to visual literacy, digital literacy, and multimedia/multimodal composition as they work to translate their written article into a digital video essay to enhance audience engagement with their research.

As the first unit in our semester, this project exposes students to conducting secondary research on a topic related to health or medicine. They are exposed to the methods through which knowledge is disseminated throughout the Medical Sciences and how such information gets transmitted to non-expert audiences. During this unit, we work with an instructional librarian from the Undergraduate Library (UL) at UNC who introduces students to the various research resources at UNC, specifically the extensive research databases the UNC Libraries provides.

This introductory unit also serves as a way to ease students into ENGL 105i. In later units, students will begin to conduct their own primary research and construct their own claims. This unit first allows them to prioritize secondary research, so they are comfortable collecting, evaluating, and integrating outside sources, presenting other scholars’ ideas before they begin to craft their own arguments.

Using the medium of digital essays allows students to “translate” their traditional written articles across modes and media to make them more engaging for a broader audience, encouraging an engagement with public scholarship while also allowing us to explore issues surrounding digital literacy, visual literacy, and multimedia composition. To aid us in these attempts, we will coordinate with the Media & Design Center so an expert can help students become more comfortable with software and strategies for capturing and editing digital audio/video media for the purposes of presenting their findings to a public audience.

For more information, see the Unit 1 Assignment Prompt, which should be accompanied by the Preliminary Research Worksheet and the Outline Prep Worksheet.


And of course, be sure to explore the students’ completed video essays. In the drop-down menu for “Categories,” choose “Medical Sciences: Popular Health Video Essays” to access their video essays, accompanied by transcripts, or you can just click here.