Major Qualifying Projects
The Major Qualifying Project (MQP) is a high-level research project in the student’s technical field, utilizing their Professional Writing capabilities. Students get the chance to experience the real-world problem solving and skillful communication that will soon characterize their careers. With a Professional Writing MQP on their resume, WPI students have a leg up on the competition when it comes to launching careers or gaining admission to the best graduate schools.
In addition to challenging research issues typical of a student’s scientific discipline, Professional Writing majors work in a range of media (print, digital, video) and genres (such as websites, brochures, online documents, feature articles, instructional material, posters, and newsletters), drawing on their study in writing, rhetoric, and literacy to analyze the context of their project, to design documents that communicate in useful and accessible ways, and to explain the significance of their culminating year’s work.
Get to know some of our students and learn how their MQP experience has direct ties to their success.
Health Communication: Countering Barriers to Health Care for Hepatitis C-Infected Vietnam Veterans
Katrina Hildebrand, Technical, Scientific, and Professional Communications
Katrina Hildebrand’s interest in this topic was sparked during her summer internship, in a conversation about volunteer work with HCV-infected Vietnam veterans. She found that, in a global environment where infectious disease is an emergent threat to human life, health communicators are challenged to, first, motivate patients to invest emotionally and educationally in their own health, and, second, fight both stigma and bureaucracy to receive successful treatment. As the daughter of a combat serviceman, she found herself drawn to the situation of veterans facing disease and stereotyping.
During the course of this project, Katrina Hildebrand sought communications avenues to bring positive information to the public and to veterans infected with hepatitis C. The latter population is hesitant to seek diagnosis and treatment due to social and medical views of the disease, as well as facing difficulty within the regulations for benefits under the Veterans Affairs health care system.
Recognizing that efforts needed to focus on campaigns to motivate voters for veteran support and to educate the at-risk population, Katrina Hildebrand’s efforts lead to the publication of two documents: “What Every Veteran Should Know About Hepatitis C,” which updated an American Liver Foundation brochure, and “Countering the Vet Hepidemic,” in a general interest style. Learn more…
Rhetoric of Global Warming: Multimodal Arguments in Public and Scientific Contexts
Eric Andresen, Professional Writing
In studying scientific argument versus public argument as they have been applied to the issue of global warming, Eric Andresen examined the communications focus used in two sample presentations, an article written for the scientific community from the journal Nature, and the publicly shown documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Because public opinion about scientific issues guides behavior and policy decisions with local and global ramifications, the techniques used to reach audiences at the public and scientific levels have societal significance. Citing works which show that an understanding of science is seen as a benefit to democratic government, Eric Andresen notes that scientific findings are generally presented to the public through an intermediary rhetoric source, such as a reporter, in a variety of visual media.
Comparing the visual tools aimed at scientific communities and toward the public in the two samples, he classifies the types of communication used and notes that correlation can be presented to falsely imply causality. He also finds that the article presents only quantitative visuals, while the public film has a mix of quantitative and qualitative images, and supports Gore’s ethos as teacher for this subject. Learn more…
Methods of Schistosomiasis haematobium Control in Adasawse, Ghana: A Case Study of Cultural Awareness in Public Health Campaigns
Victoria Mason, Biotechnology and Professional Writing
In this study, Victoria Mason proposes a culturally sensitive model for communicating about health, stemming from her work in a public program aimed toward control of the parasitic schistosomiasis in a rural village in eastern Ghana. Nearly 50 percent of local children suffer from the disease which damages organs of populations in tropical and subtropical areas without potable water and sanitation.
Following the decline in use of a pool built in 2009 as an alternative play center to the parasite-infested river, Victoria Mason analyzes cross-cultural factors and the forces which could affect success or failure of the health initiative: ideological, sociopolitical, institutional/professional, ethnocultural, and material.
Surveying children, it was found that the villagers saw schistosomiasis as an inevitable condition, rather than as a disease, thus establishing a rift in view between the illness of townspeople, and the diagnosis and solutions provided by health care workers. As a natural and revered feature of village life, the river was esteemed locally, even though a connection to the parasitic problem was recognized. Learn more…