14 Check your Bias

When thinking about researching your topic, be aware of confirmation bias, the tendency that most of us have to look for information that supports what we already believe to be true. This bias can lead us to ignore evidence or information that contradicts our own assumptions and to perhaps even make inferences about causal relationships where there may not be any. Confirmation bias is especially significant in highly-contested, hot-button issues that we feel strongly about. It may also be amplified by the sources we choose to get our news from.

When turning to Google or a library database for information, it is important to frame your questions objectively and without bias so that your search results are not merely confirming what you already believe to be true. Avoid any search words which may lead to a bias in the results; negative, positive, benefits, harms, and so on, could skew results in favour of one side or perspective.

And even the words themselves you choose can be inherently biased. Consider the difference between anti-vax and vaccine hesitant, similar terms that correspond to two very different groups of people. Searching with one or the other will bring you different results.

Remember, you are searching for a balanced treatment of the topic.

Activity: Examine the first few search results

Click the purple question marks in the following screenshot to examine the first few search results from the question: “Why the minimum wage should not be raised.”

(Expand to fullscreen if you need to; use the ESC to exit.)



A better search would be minimum wage AND unemployment or any other concept you wish to investigate in relation to minimum wage, for example, poverty or families. You should see a mixed set of results coming from mainstream media and organizations from across the political spectrum.


Confirmation bias by Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia  is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Doing Research Copyright © 2020 by Celia Brinkerhoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book