One Writer’s Journey

September 15, 2014

Evaluating Sources: Source Bias, What to Use, and What to Lose

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:33 am
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biasWhether you write fiction or nonfiction, if you research, you need to know how to evaluate your sources.  A big part of this is understanding source bias.

Simply put, bias is how the author thinks about the topic.  What beliefs color this perception?  What is his goal in writing the piece?

All potential source materials have bias because they are created by people and people have bias.  The key here is to identify the bias found in a particular source and determine whether ot not it will get in the way of accuracy.

Some people think of bias as prejudice.  But bias in sources isn’t so much pred In terms of source material it is better to think of bias as how the author or publisher.  Perhaps an example will help.

Last weekend, my son saw the movie God’s Not Dead.  Not surprisingly, he is after all my kid, he came home with questions.  “Did Darwin really say that God is dead or he killed God or something like that?”

Fortunately, the computer in the family room is hooked up to the tv.  That means that when we’re trying to answer a quetion like this, we can all sit down on the sofa  and no one is leaning over anyone else’s shoulder.  I keyed in “‘God is dead’ +Darwin” and the search was on.

What is the first step in ruling out biased sources?  Finding which sources are going to have a bias that may skew the data.  In this case, religious sources, church web site, and the like.  Anything with creation in the same was out.  Why?  Because anyone who believes in creationism is going to be biased against Darwin.

Again, this isn’t the only topic that presents “bias issues.”

A missionary in the early 19th century South Pacific, may have had some valuable insight into the lives of the islanders, but his observations were filtered through the lens of someone who journeyed to their island home to “save them” from their flawed state of being.

Two warring parties cannot and should not be expected to give unbiased or accurate information about each other.

Economic level, education, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, and much, much more play into bias. By being aware of the possible biases of your sources, you’ll have a better idea of what facts to take at face value and which to take extra steps to verify.

What did Darwin say?  Read the sixth edition of On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man and find out.



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