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For this unit, students will compose a popular health article for a major news source of their choosing. 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 experts at reading and interpreting professional journal articles. They will attend to many different ethical concerns, including how to persuasively and honestly present visual data. We use as a guide for studying health and medical journalism.

As the first unit in our semester, this project exposes students to conducting secondary research on a topic related to health or medicine. Students 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 the students to the various research resources at UNC, specifically the extensive databases the UNC Libraries provides.

This introductory unit also serves as a way to ease students into ENGL 105i. In later units, they 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, translating other scholars’ ideas before they begin to craft their own arguments.

This Medical Sciences unit integrates perspectives and approaches from the Natural Sciences, prioritizing the scientific method and objectivity, so this unit allows students to speculate on and carefully consider the objectivity of medical studies while also thinking carefully about different ways (styles, genres, media) the same information can be conveyed for different audiences.

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


And of course, be sure to explore the students’ completed popular health articles. In the drop-down menu for “Categories,” choose “Medical Sciences: Popular Health Articles,” or you can just click here.