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Identifying Bias

About this guide

Identifying bias can be tricky because it is not clearly stated. Bias can exist on a spectrum of political ideology, religious views, financial influence, misinformation, and more. All sources should be evaluated for potential bias -- from a tweeted link to a scholarly article. This guide shows different types of bias you might encounter and gives strategies for how to identify biased sources.

bias, noun
prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair
bias, verb
cause to feel or show inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something

Find the Source!

Find the source of the information you're evaluating. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who owns/produces the source?
  • Who advertises in the source? Are the advertisements appropriate for the source?
  • Is there a political slant in the content?
  • Does the content contain all the facts or at least present both sides of an argument fairly?
  • What type of language is being used? Does the author use strong language or hyperbole?
  • Do they back up their argument with factual evidence? Can you see where they got their evidence through links or citations?

To find the answer to these questions, you need to read the text carefully and you may have to do some background/fact-checking research to help determine if the source is reliable or biased.

CAUTION!

If you notice the following, the source may be biased:

  • Heavily opinionated or one-sided
  • Relies on unsupported or unsubstantiated claims
  • Presents highly selected facts that lean to a certain outcome
  • Pretends to present facts, but offers only opinion
  • Uses extreme or inappropriate language
  • Tries to persuade you to think a certain way with no regard for factual evidence
  • The author is unidentifiable, lacks expertise, or writes on unrelated topics
  • Is entertainment-based or a form of parody or satire
  • Tries to sell you something in disguise

Types of Bias (Click to expand each section)

Example: fake news. Advertisers try to make money by sponsoring content.

Example: images are powerful. Look at how the image portrays the subject.

 

Example: word choice. The type of language used can influence how people react to the information.

Example: information portrayed in a frame or story format. Usually framed around a conflict.
Example: information is fast paced. Sometimes the information is reported before all the facts are available and checked.

 

Example: information not included or incomplete. While it's not possible to cover every detail, there shouldn't be gaps in the information. This type of bias can be difficult to identify unless you read a variety of sources across an issue. For instance, if the information presented is extremely or solely one-sided, that may be an indication of omission.

 

Other Keywords

There are some keywords you should keep in mind when you're evaluating for bias:

Agenda, n. -- the underlying intentions or motives of a particular person or group

Hyperbole, n. -- exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally

Objective, adj. -- (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts

Parody, n. -- an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect

Satire, n. -- The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's folly and vice

Subjective, adj. -- based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions

 

Helpful Guides

References

"Definition of Bias in US English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, OxfordUP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/bias. Accessed 13 May 2019.

"Definition of Agenda in English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford UP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/agenda. Accessed 13 May 2019.

"Definition of Hyperbole in English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford UP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/hyperbole. Accessed 13 May 2019.

"Definition of Objective in English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford UP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/objective. Accessed 13 May 2019.

"Definition of Parody in English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford UP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/parody. Accessed 13 May 2019.

"Definition of Satire in English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford UP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/satire. Accessed 13 May 2019.

"Definition of Subjective in English." English Oxford Living Dictionaries, Oxford UP, 2019, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/subjective. Accessed 13 May 2019.