A Study of the Communication Patterns of Participants in consumer Health Electronic Discussion Groups


Natalie A. Schoch

Kellogg Science and Technology Center, Battle Creek, MI

Marilyn Domas White

College of Library and Information Services, University of Maryland, College Park, MD




This study analyzes and compares the interactions in two listservs, one dealing with a chronic illness (diabetes), the other with a more acute disease (colon cancer). Data consists of 1000 messages from each list randomly selected during Fall 1996 (N=2000). The messages were analyzed with Robert Bales’ transactional analysis schema for smal group interactions. The analysis focuses on categorizing messages by problem orientation and into socio-emotional areas having both positive and negative reactions and into task areas for both asking questions and providing information. Besides the list-based analyses, the analysis also looks, for each list, at differences in the messages transmitted by different categories of participants: patients; caregivers, relatives, and friends; and medical professionals.