Module 4: Evaluating Information
All authors have reasons for writingon a topic in a particular way. It is important to be able to identify this so you can understand the author's perspective. Information sources always have a bias. Bias is a one-sided opinion which lacks a neutral point-of-view. Simple examples of bias include:
- "Elderly drivers are dangerous"
- "Pop music sounds terrible"
Sometimes the sources you use may have an unstated bias that you must determine by examining the author's tone and information he or she chooses to include or exclude.
There is nothing wrong with having a bias. You may need information with a particular bias to support your research. However, look closely for these points to avoid unreliable information due to extreme bias.
- Emotional language meant to solicit positive and negative responses
- A critical or attacking tone taken by the author
- Views expressed or evidence given by the author cannot be verified in other places
- Misquoting by rewording or paraphrasing, or manipulating information from sources used by the author
- Making issues more extreme through misinformation or exaggeration
- Using information which only supports the author's argument while disregarding other sources which may differ
Ask these questions when evaluating a source for perspective and bias:
- Can the author's point of view be determined?
- Is there a commercial or organizational interest associated with the material?
- Has the source been peer reviewed?
- Are misleading or deceptive arguments used?
- Are there fallacies in arguments and reasoning?
- Are stereotypes or ethnocentric arguments used?
- Are inflammatory words or phrases used?