Whether you are writing or doing research, you must keep bias in mind.
Note: I don’t say “possible bias,” because we are all biased. You. Me. The woman who wrote the diary entries you are using for your historical fiction. The fellow who participated in the conservation department’s wildlife count. Biased. Each and everyone.
The key is to know what the author’s bias is, because some biases are strong enough to skew the data to the point that it is unreliable. Sometimes this is due to racism. Sometimes to sexism. Sometimes it is another -ism or -ology altogether.
But also be aware of your own biases. I have a bias toward believing what I read in sources from university and scientific presses. Yet even scientists are biased as became obvious at the T-Rex Sue exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center.
One display discusses the dinosaur’s gender.
Initially, paleontologists had not found a particular bone when they unearthed Sue. Because many scientists believe this bone is found only in male T-rex’s, they decided Sue was female. But then they found the bone. Male? Maybe not. Apparently the jury is now out on whether this bone is an indicator of gender. Then whoever wrote the text revealed their bias by stating that until scientists know one way or the other, Sue is not a boy or girl but an It.
And, yes, I read it again. They didn’t say that they should use It when writing about Sue. They said that Sue was, until proof could be found, an It.
Um, no. Sorry.
Hate to disappoint your sciency self.
Sue is either a boy or a girl no matter what you know, think you know or had for breakfast. Please. Check your bias at the door.