Illness Construction

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Social constructionists argue that illness is defined through the contingent, interactive processes of meaning making. Although these definitions are “constructed,” they have real, material consequences for individuals and society.


In this paper, make an argument about the social construction of illness and support it with evidence drawn from course materials and one or both of two sources of data: your own experiences and/or the illness narratives featured in the audio segments “Patient Voices” at the New York Times website at



  • Organize your paper around an argument related to the social construction of illness that is drawn from the course materials and illustrated in, brought to life, or revealed through the life stories in “Patient Voices.”
  • Use course materials to develop and substantiate your argument. Course materials can be used to support your points, define concepts, to situate your argument within the field, and to make connections between your points.
  • Also use your own experiences and/or the illness narratives at “Patient Voices” to illustrate and develop your argument. For an example of how to incorporate original data into your paper, look at how Barker incorporates her interview data to illustrate her argument that FMS sufferers identify their own experiences in their readings of the FMS self-help literature.
  • All materials used in your paper should be cited appropriately, including in-text citations and a bibliography. Instructions on when and how to properly cite are available on Smartsite/Resources/Papers.
  • Papers should be well organized.
  • Writing should be free of errors and should express ideas clearly and precisely.
  • The grading scale is available on Smartsite/Resources/Papers.



  • Your paper should be about 5 pages, double spaced, using 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins.
  • Course materials include all readings and lecture materials (including in-class videos and podcasts) up to the due date. Only use personal experiences and/or the “Patient Voices” narratives as outside material.
  • Submit your paper on Smartsite through the assignments tool no later than 8pm on Friday March 21.
  • Late papers will be deducted 10% points (1 letter grade) if late, starting immediately after the deadline.