Date of Award

Spring 5-3-2019

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


English, Linguistics, and Communication

Department Chair or Program Director

Richards, Gary

First Advisor

Johnson-Young, Elizabeth

Major or Concentration

Communication and Digital Studies


Ethos is an important persuasive tool that is classically associated with character and more recently with credibility. However, establishing credibility on digital platforms is more complicated, and research suggests that website visitors often rely on design heuristics. This paper examines how sites that lack traditional credibility establish ethos, using the Fluoride Action Network’s website as an exemplar. Fluoridating water is supported by numerous credible organizations, yet fluoridation opponents maintain a very persuasive presence. Understanding how this anti-fluoridation site establishes credibility without traditional credentials or institutional backing provides insight into the evolution of ethos on the internet. Analysis demonstrated that this website utilizes markers of digital credibility through professional design. However, this group also associates with elements of traditional ethos. They cite various scientific sources, and link themselves to a nonprofit and credible news organizations. This blend of digital and more traditional ethos elements lends great persuasive power to this group.

Included in

Communication Commons