Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Library Homepage College Homepage
Research Guides

PO102 American Government - Lucas: Identifying Bias

This guide will introduce you to the best resources for completing the two research-based assignments in Prof. Lucas's class.

An important part of evaluating an author’s ethos is identifying that author’s bias. Bias is any opinion that influences a person’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. A person can be biased against something or have a bias for something. An author’s bias is any opinion or prejudice that affects that author’s writing and prevents the author from being completely neutral about the topic or issue about which s/he is writing.

How to determine what an author’s bias is:

The author may state directly some of his/her biases by telling the reader his/her opinions on certain topics or admitting that s/he has a conflict of interest or preference. But when an author does not acknowledge his/her own bias, a skilled reader can infer what an author’s bias may be by looking at the author’s diction and use of evidence.

When looking at the author’s use of evidence, ask yourself:

  • Does the author present more positive evidence for one side of an issue than the other?
  • Does the author present more negative evidence for one side of an issue than the other? 

These are both clues that the author may be biased for or against a particular side.

When looking at the author’s diction, ask yourself:

  • Does the author use words with more negative connotations when referring to one side of an issue or particular people?
  • Does the author use words with more positive connotations when referring to one side of an issue or particular people? 

These connotations are another clue to what or whom the author may be biased for or against.

(excerpted from www.sjsu.edu/faculty/mary.warner/.../Identifying%20Bias%20Activity.docx)


Also look for:

  1. Name-calling is an attack on a person instead of an issue.
  2. bandwagon appeal tries to persuade the reader to do, think, or buy something because it is popular or because “everyone” is doing it.
  3. red herring is an attempt to distract the reader with details not relevant to the argument.
  4. An emotional appeal tries to persuade the reader by using words that appeal to the reader’s emotions instead of to logic or reason.
  5. testimonial attempts to persuade the reader by using a famous person to endorse a product or idea (for instance, the celebrity endorsement).
  6. Repetition attempts to persuade the reader by repeating a message over and over again.
  7. sweeping generalization (stereotyping) makes an oversimplified statement about a group based on limited information.
  8. circular argument states a conclusion as part of the proof of the argument.
  9. An appeal to numbers, facts, or statistics attempts to persuade the reader by showing how many people think something is true.

(excerpted from https://www.pdesas.org/module/content/resources/19402/view.ashx)

Instructions: Evaluate the source provided on your topic. Using the criteria and suggestions for identifying biased sources, determine if your source is biased. Explain why it is or isn't and how you know.

Be prepared to share your findings with the class.

Made with Padlet