Abstract

Not everyone has a background in the sciences or medicine, but everyone at some point will need to interpret medical information and use it to make decisions that will significantly impact their own life or the life of a loved one. Understanding who to trust when seeking medical advice can seem daunting in an age of instant access to a nearly limitless number of online sources and the constantly evolving presence of social media. Through the rhetorical concept of ethos, broken into phronesis (practical wisdom), arête (virtue), and eunoia (good will), we can analyze methods used by different rhetors to determine how they build authority and earn their audience's trust, thereby influencing the audience's beliefs and actions. Vaccines are a salient topic to analyze for ethos building, as there is an ongoing and passionate debate from various rhetors vying to influence patients and parents to vaccinate according to different beliefs surrounding public health, safety, and individual liberty. Analyzing public-facing information from opposite sides of the debate, specifically from healthcare professionals, government organizations, and lay people, can help us see different methods utilized when creating an ethos about the same topic. Understanding how rhetors build ethos may help us understand what those rhetors consider important and may help us reach them as an audience more effectively. It was found that when ethos-building, professionals and government organizations focused more on building expertise and goodwill towards the general population while anti-vaccination lay rhetors focused more on individual connections and goodwill towards small groups perceived as vulnerable. Through studies such as this focused on the rhetoric of medicine, we can learn to create better communications and documents about vaccines and healthcare that earn trust and that influence members of the community towards safeguarding public health.

Notes

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Graduation Date

2021

Semester

Spring

Advisor

Applen, JD

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

College

College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program

Texts and Technology

Format

application/pdf

Identifier

CFE0008479; DP0024155

URL

https://purls.library.ucf.edu/go/DP0024155

Language

English

Release Date

May 2026

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)

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