O’Rourke is interested in how people use reading and writing to transform themselves and engage with others. Her research examines how immigrants and working people used rhetoric and literacy to improve their lives and promote reform during the twentieth century. Publications include “Bottom Dogs and Might-Have-Beens: The Industrial Folklore of the Federal Writers’ Project” (in The Folklore Historian) and “‘To Learn from Life Itself’: Experience and Education at Hull-House” (in Jane Addams and the Call to Education. Ed. David Schaafsma). She teaches undergraduate courses in first-year composition, advanced writing, rhetoric, and composition theory.