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NURS 143 - Informatics in Nursing Practice - Hinkle

Website Evaluation Using the Rhetorical Triangle

Drawing of three two-sided arrows in the shape of a pyramid. Where points meet on top, "Purpose"; bottom left, "Author"; bottom right, "Audience." "Message" is in the middle.

When you look at a website, start your evaluation by asking three questions:

  • Who is the author of the text?

  • Who is the intended audience for the text?

  • What is the purpose of the text?

Author: When you read a text, try to find out as much about the author as you possibly can:

  • Who is the author?

  • What do you know about the author?

  • Are they trustworthy? Why?

  • What else have they written on the subject?  

Audience: There are many different types of audiences.  When you visit a website, it is important to know who the intended audience is.  Identify the audience based on the following questions:  

  • Who is the target audience?

  • What is the audience’s interest in the subject?

  • What does the audience know about the subject?

  • How would the audience feel about the subject?

Purpose: When viewing the website identify the specific purpose it serves.  Websites are created for numerous purposes which change from situation to situation and audience to audience. A few examples of purposes for website are: educational, informative, persuasive, entertainment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the creator’s purpose for this website?

  • What specific information does the website convey?

  • Is the website trying to convince you of something?

  • Is the website trying to sell something?

*Adapted from the University Writing Program Northern Arizona University

SIFT Method by Mike Caufield

SIFT Information Evaluation | Piktochart Visual Editor

SIFT Information Evaluation Habits (image text)

Below are simple habits to practice when looking at information...

  • Stop
    • Do you know the website?
    • What is its reputation?
    • What is your purpose?
    • How do you feel?
    • Consider cognitive biases.
  • Investigate the Source
    • What exactly is the source?
    • What can you find out about the website? 
    • What about the author?
    • Is it worth your time?
    • Stuck? Try steps under [W]ebsite & [A]uthor
  • Find other coverage
    • Is other coverage similar?
    • Can you find a better source?
    • One more trusted?
    • More in-depth?
    • What do expert sources agree on with coverage?
    • Stuck? Try steps under [A]rticle
  • Trace claims, quotes, media to the original context
    • Can you find the original source? 
    • What is the original context?
    • Has it been accurately presented?
    • Stuck? Try steps under [C]laim

Graphic created by Suzanne Sannwald based on Mike Caufield's work on SIFT (