Reaching Out

With Jen’s help, I picked a description to start out with for my email to clinicians/scientists: A project about the rhetoric of Lyme Disease in which I am hoping to do a case study with a group of PTLDS people using visual ethnography. However, this still needs significant revising…and I need to start drafting the email that I’ll send with it. I’m staring with the XYZ Research Center,* since I am most interested in speaking with the researchers there. Here goes!



Dear ____,

My name is Sarah Singer, and I am a PhD student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am beginning a dissertation project about Lyme Disease in which I plan to do conduct a case study [[Does one “conduct” a case study? Quick Google Scholar search: lyme disease case study…no dice]] with a group of individuals with Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome using visual ethnography. [[Are my research questions really about PTLDS people or Lyme Disease in general? Lyme diagnosis? Hmmm…]]. I am writing to ask if you would be willing to speak/consult with me for 20 minutes to/about…

–> seek guidance about my research questions (is this research relevant to the center?

–> ask about working with this particular patient population (special  needs or things to be aware of?) accessing the population? (maybe I could recruit from their database?)

–> ???????

Ultimately, the question I am hoping to answer/investigate/explore is…

I believe that this research complements/will support the center’s long-term effort to develop interdisciplinary models for understanding Lyme Disease.


Sarah Singer


I guess this marks a time for confronting another significant problem with my project: I have not completely narrowed down my research questions. In the humanities, research questions evolve as we start doing the research. However, I’m not sure that it works this way in the sciences, and I don’t want anyone to not take me seriously because I seem to be wishy-washy.

Also: what do I want from these people? BM suggested that I have a gentle, open-ended ask, so maybe that’s why I’m so concerned about trying to make decisions about research questions and demands (so to speak).Hmmm….

*Note: At this point, I have chosen not to reveal which researchers I am reaching out to or consulting with. Although I believe that this kind of deliberate avoidance contributes to the contested nature of Lyme, maintaining anonymity seems to be important to clinicians and researchers who treat Lyme patients, and I do not want to compromise the work they are doing to help suffering health seekers.

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