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investigate the credibility of a web site

You have worked together to investigate the credibility (reliability) of the web site, as requested by our hypothetical CEO, Mary Highpower. Now I want you to write Mary a professional e-mail detailing your findings and answering her most important questions (below).

This is a real-world scenario I have based on my own past experiences working for intelligent, creative CEOs of successful companies (Mary Highpower is actually a fictional stand-in for the CEO of Innovative Emergency Management, Inc., the company for which I managed the writing and editorial department back in the early 2000s). The scenario is one commonly encountered when you work for a busy executive: Evaluate some information and recommend a course of action.

The purpose of this assignment is to assess what you’ve learned about evaluating sources, using evidence from source material to support your claims, and writing persuasively for a specific audience and purpose. You will need to apply what you’ve learned about the rhetorical situation in particular to:

Evaluate the credibility of the information on the web site you have been asked to examine.
Present your findings in the most effective way, given your audience and what, according to the scenario, you hope to achieve (your purpose).
Here is the scenario again. You should have completed the group work on the discussion board already.

You have just gotten a job as a personal assistant to Mary Highpower, the CEO of Innovative Solutions, Inc., the company where you’ve been hoping to work. Even better, the CEO has promised you that if, in the role of her personal assistant, you demonstrate good judgment and strong communication skills, she will promote you to the better-paid dream job that you really want.

Innovative Solutions, Inc. is a company whose mission is to come up with creative, evidence-based solutions to the world’s problems. As CEO, Mary Highpower believes that company policies, such as employee work hours and environment, should also be based on a sound judgment of what’s best for employees and business alike, since evidence shows that healthy, happy employees do better work. Besides, Mary Highpower is one of those rare CEOs who genuinely cares about her employees, much as she cares about finding solutions to the world’s problems.

This morning, Mary is in a hurry to catch a plane to London for a business trip. As she’s waiting to board her plane, she sees the following in her Facebook feed, shared by the CEO of another company she often does business with:


The warning concerns Mary a great deal, but she doesn’t know what DHMO is, and she doesn’t have time to look into it. Just before boarding her plane, she sends you a quick e-mail, asking you to go to the link above (click the image above to go to the link) and to the main web site, (Links to an external site.), to research the matter, and to e-mail her your findings and recommendations by the time her plane lands in London.

Specifically, she wants to know:

How great a threat is DHMO to her employees, and why?
Should she hire someone to come test the building for traces of DHMO and to eliminate any DHMO they find?
Should she create a company policy prohibiting employees from bringing anything containing DHMO to work?
How did you reach your conclusions? She wants to know this because you’re still new, so this will help her determine how much she can rely on your conclusions. She’s depending on you to tell her enough about what’s on the web site (and any other relevant information), as well as about how you evaluated the information and came to your conclusion, to enable her to feel confident that your assessment is sound.
Of course, you may be able to impress her with additional ideas that will be useful to her; you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

What you know about Mary Highpower that you should keep in mind:

She’s smart, experienced, and curious about a wide variety of subjects. She has a master’s degree in economics, and she’s good at reading, interpreting, and evaluating information (and she takes great pride in her abilities), but she has little time these days for research, much as she wishes she did.
Although she is interested in science, she has only a very basic background in it, so she relies on her employees to give her the scientific information she needs. (Of course, this is why she carefully selects employees, to ensure she gets good information!)
She’s too busy to read detailed scholarly and technical information herself, so she has her employees do it and report it to her; however, she wants the reports to offer enough information for her to understand how they (the report writers) reached the conclusions they did. This means that anything you report to her must balance the constraints of her busy schedule with her need to have a sufficient understanding of the information. She wants enough information on a subject to enable her to understand the basics of the subject and to talk about it intelligently to the media, to other business people, and to members of the scientific community, if she’s suddenly called on to do so.
Like most CEOs, she values employees who go that extra mile (who do more than she has asked), but only when she believes that the extra work they do is relevant and beneficial to her and the company.
To foster a good, trusting working relationship, she has invited you to call her Mary, as most employees do. This does not, however, mean that she isn’t evaluating your work; she will only offer you a position with more responsibility if you demonstrate that your work will add value to her and the company, and if she feels you are someone she can also like and get along with.
What you should remember about your own situation:

Even if you can quickly and confidently form a judgment about the information, this is your opportunity to demonstrate to Mary that you have the reasoning and communication skills she wants in a trusted, high-level employee. Although you know that Mary is busy and doesn’t want more information than is really useful to her, you also want to impress her by showing off the important skills you have—so you need to figure out the best balance between too little and too much, and make every word count.
Frequently asked formatting questions:

Yes, I want you to write this in the format of an e-mail, addressed to Mary. Explain to Mary what you’ve found and make recommendations.
It should be as long as you think a professional e-mail of this nature should be. Think about your audience! This is a critical thinking activity for writing for a particular rhetorical situation. You will need to balance persuasive detail with the needs of the busy reader. But remember: you are not writing an essay!
Although I am asking you to write this in the format of an e-mail, I do want you to type it up in a word processor like MS Word, double-space it (so it’s easier for me to make comments on it), and save it as PDF, to upload here. (Do NOT e-mail it to me, please! I am not Mary.)