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Commentary on Abrahamson and Rubin (2012) “Discourse structure differences in lay and professional health communication”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 68 No. 6, pp. 826-851

Christine Urquhart (Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)
Alexander H. Urquhart (Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to criticise the paper by Jennie A. Abrahamson and Victoria L. Rubin (2012) “Discourse structure differences in lay and professional health communication”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 68 No. 6, pp. 826-851.

Design/methodology/approach

The author reviewed the antecedents of Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) in discourse analysis, and paid close attention to the differences between the original formulation of RST, later formulations of the RST model and the application of RST in this paper. The author also reviewed the literature on physician-patient communication, and patient-patient support to contextualise the findings of Abrahamson and Rubin.

Findings

The paper shows evidence of over-simplification of RST since its initial formulation. Next, the Motivation relationship in the original Mann/Thompson formulation of RST appears problematic. This makes the authors’ RST findings that patient-patient (or consumer-consumer) information sharing appear to be more effective than physician-consumer information sharing rather tenuous. An important additional flaw is that there was only one physician participant in this study. A practical limitation to the study is that physicians mostly interact face-to-face with patients and use of consumer advice web sites may not fit well with the current practice of medicine.

Research limitations/implications

The author had limited examples in the paper to examine how the authors had categorised the binary unit relationships.

Originality/value

RST is promising for discourse analysis of information advice web sites but simplifications in its application can lead to unwarranted claims.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Corrigendum – It has come to our attention that Alexander H. Urquhart was not named as an author of “Commentary on Abrahamson and Rubin (2012) ‘Discourse structure differences in lay and professional health communication’, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 68 No. 6, pp. 826-851” which was published in the Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 2, 2014. This occurred through an author and Publisher error. The authors and the Publisher sincerely apologise for this. The additional author attribution for this article has now been added to the electronic version of the article.

Citation

Urquhart, C. and Urquhart, A.H. (2015), "Commentary on Abrahamson and Rubin (2012) “Discourse structure differences in lay and professional health communication”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 68 No. 6, pp. 826-851", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 71 No. 2, pp. 216-223. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-02-2014-0036

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited