Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Library & Information Science


Dr. Catherine Ross


Depressive episodes and chronic depression often provide the impetus for both online and offline everyday life information-seeking and sharing and the seeking of support. While allopathic medication, psychiatric, and other biomedical services are the standard treatments for depression, people often use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to supplement or supplant biomedical treatments. Depression is a nebulous disorder with varying causes, illness trajectories, and a wide variety of potentially effective treatments. Often, treating and managing depression forms a project for life (Wikgren, 2001) where the need for information is continuous.

In the present study, I have used a constructionist, discourse analytic approach as outlined by Potter (1996) and Wooffitt (1992) to analyze the messages posted to three online newsgroups devoted to depression, CAM, and the practices of biomedicine and to analyze the transcripts from 10 semi-structured interviews with participants who self-identified as currently having depression or who have suffered from depression in the past. I have sought to understand how people justify using, or not using, CAM to treat depression. Specifically, I have investigated how people with depression use information in discourse to justify healthcare decisions and to create credible and authoritative accounts; how people with depression conceptualize CAM therapies, mainstream medicine, and depression and how these conceptualizations are represented in the discursive constructions of individuals as competent information-seekers and users; and I have investigated the information practices (e.g., everyday life information-seeking, sharing, and use) of people living with depression.

My findings show that while expert, biomedical information sources and knowledge are most often drawn upon and referred to by newsgroup posters and interviewees to warrant claims, people used a variety of discursive strategies and regular speech patterns to create credible and authoritative accounts, to portray themselves as competent information-seekers and users, to support their claims for either using or foregoing a certain treatment, and to counter the authoritative knowledge of biomedicine.

In addition, my findings emphasize the importance of orienting information discussed in Savolainen’s (1995) everyday life information-seeking (ELIS) model. For many people with depression, information was used to maintain a sense of coherence (related to “mastery of life” within the ELIS model) and to create meaning in addition to solving practical problems. My findings suggest that an additional information-seeking principle to those outlined by Harris and Dewdney (1994) deserves further research attention: people seek information that is congruent with their worldview and values.