Expectations and Realities of Online Information Databases: A Rhetorical Analysis of WebMD

Christine A. Lurie, Georgia State University


The internet is fundamentally a large storage unit for immense amounts of data. Consequently, the majority of online users log on to the internet in order to find information. Innovations in technology continue to make both the production and consumption of this information an easily achieved endeavor, resulting in high expectations for instantaneous answers via immediate search results. While a plethora of information is not difficult to find, knowing what to do with that information is often problematic. To turn information into knowledge requires an ability to contextualize it and critically engage with it. WebMD is a highly recognizable health information database that often runs into information overload problems with its users. This thesis will examine the information that the WebMD website provides, as well as its usability. The goal is to investigate, firstly, the importance of context for knowledge-forming when users perform online information research and, secondly, the critical literacy required to use such information.