Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Alice Fothergill


risk communication, risk perception, disaster studies, COVID-19


This qualitative, multi-method study examines how crucial information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been shared to the public by government, public health, and scientific officials. This vital information and how it is communicated affects the public’s response and participation in the public health crisis. Using a symbolic interactionist framework, I performed a historical analysis of the risk communication from three notable past public health pandemics and epidemics, analyzed the risk communication methods used and messages broadcast on social media during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and interviewed members of the public to explore how they received crisis information, how they perceived the risk, and how they responded to that information. I identified conceptual themes in the data and offer a sociological view of how risk was communicated, perceived, and acted upon in COVID-19, and how our current pandemic compares to health crises in U.S. history, in an effort to improve public health communication in the future.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.