Simonson's research is focused primarily on historical and contemporary thinking about rhetoric and mass communication, particularly in the U.S. since the 1850s; and secondarily about ethnographic approaches to rhetorical study. He takes a rhetorical and sociological approach to the history of ideas about communication, and puts rhetoric into conversation with the social sciences In addition to articles and books, he has also produced two documentary films on the history of the field of communication. Supplementing his work in intellectual history and theory, Simonson has also conducted studies of the grassroots rhetorical practices of political campaigns and civic rituals, for which he has used ethnographic field methods. He is also committed to rhetoric as a civic and educational art, and has applied it in assisting sustainable agriculture groups and teaching large lecture courses.
rhetorical and mass communication theory, the intellectual history of communication and rhetoric in the U.S. since the 1850s, ethnographic approaches to rhetorical studies, American pragmatism, American moral discourses, the work of Robert K. Merton, rhetoric and religion, the international history of the field of communication, the history of the sociology of media