Exercising Uncertainty Identifying and Addressing “Grey Areas” in a Case Study involving Corporate-Funded Research on the Effects of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

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Cynthia Ryan


Rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) scholars posit that health and medicine texts cannot be divorced from the rhetorical conditions in which they are shaped and disseminated. This assertion runs counter to traditional biomedical values grounding messages about the body in positivist evidence and universal standards. As this issue of the founding journal in RHM demonstrates, a disciplinary response to a biomedical ideology should undergird not only the approaches scholars take to their research, but also the models of learning they bring to the classroom. In this essay, I present a case study assignment used in an undergraduate science writing course that aims to encourage critical thinking skills that extend beyond dichotomous understandings of both the material body and knowledge-production influencing how the body is situated in institutional settings. Following a discussion of relevant RHM scholarship, I provide details about the institutional context in which I work, a description of the assignment developed for this student population including sample student responses, and consideration of the strengths and limitations of the approach alongside strategies for adapting the assignment to other student populations and environments.

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