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Concussions in FootballConcussions in Football: Evaluate Bias

Evaluate Bias

Football is a big part of American culture and people have strong emotions about it, so it's important to be mindful of bias as you select sources. But bias isn't necessarily a bad thing. A resource can be biased but still contain useful and credible information. The problem lies in those resources that that are not upfront about their political or social agenda, are disrespectful of their opposition, and that make arguments and statements without backing them up with facts or research.

This page will help you evaluate for bias in your sources and be thoughtful about those you finally choose to use in your assignment.

Questions to Think About

Looking at a sample article, "Sports Rules Revised as Research Mounts on Head Injuries Governing bodies target football players," let's do some analysis of its bias.

Whose perspective does this source represent?

  • The article reports new rules by the National Federation of State High School Associations, USA Hockey, and the Minnesota State High School League.
  • It reports on the results of a studies on youth football players by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Wake Forest University and at Temple University, among others.
  • It reports on the Sports Legacy Institute's call for youth sports organizations to change their rules to minimize the head contact of their athletes.

Who are the other stakeholders in this issue? How are they represented in the source?

  • Stakeholders mentioned include youth sports programs and student athletes themselves. It focuses on student athletes' health regarding head injury and concussions.
  • The article does not address the perspectives of students themselves, their parents, or professional football players, organizations, and fans. 

What do others have to say about the source?

  • Wikipedia tells us that Education Week is "an independent news organization that has covered K-12 education since 1981. It...[provides] both news and analysis...It is owned by Editorial Projects in Education (EPE), a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to raise awareness and understanding of critical issues facing American schools."

What is the evidence being used to support the argument?

  • The evidence used is from scholarly journal articles published in journals such as Annals of Biomedical Engineering and The American Journal of Sports Medicine. These studies include data from hundreds and thousands of concussions or head impacts.
    • For example: "A new joint study from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Wake Forest University, for example, found that unlike in high school and college football, the hardest hits for youth-football players typically occur during practice. The researchers placed instruments in the helmets of seven football players, ages 7 and 8, and examined a total of 748 impacts that they endured. They found that roughly 60 percent of all head impacts occurred in practice."

In conclusion?

This article presents the news in a very straightforward and unbiased style, reporting new rules by various relevant youth sports organizations and the research evidence behind those decisions. The statistics in the article are clearly sourced from scholarly research. It could be a good source to use to represent the perspective of researchers and youth sports organizations that are changing their rules to minimize the number of concussions experienced by student athletes.

 

Tip! If in doubt about whether a source is too biased, you don't need to use it just because you found it. Find one that is more even-handed instead.

 

Tip! Always look for different perspectives on an issue to get a more complete picture of the issue. That being said, the weight of evidence sometimes strengthens one "side" over another, and thus having balanced coverage of an issue might not mean giving equal time/space to each different argument. Giving equal time to two arguments can be misleading if one argument actually has a stronger case.

 

It's important to look for a variety of viewpoints and draw your own conclusions! 


Evaluating Bias in Media

Everyone has biases and no publication can be entirely neutral, though some are more biased than others. These resources can help you detect and evaluate for bias in different news media sources.


Want more help with evaluating sources?

Check out these other pages in our Research Guides, or ask a librarian!

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