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Evaluating Resources: Bias


Bias can be found in almost any publication, from author bias to selective coverage of certain news and events.  Understanding that it exists is of the utmost importance, and sources that freely offer methodologies and disclosures (reporting on conflicts of interest, disclosure of organizational relationships, personal responsibility to reveal author leanings) are at least making an effort at transparency.

Left/Right Leaning?

The above chart represents an opinion on bias in the media based on organization.  While an interesting thought experiment, the creator is quite clear on their personal biases, and this chart should be viewed, like everything else, with healthy skepticism.

Sources of Bias

Political Bias - Does there seem to be an obvious, or even subtle, lean favoring one political side?

Commercial Bias - Are there disclosures, obvious positive links between stories and advertising, or conversely a noticeable lack of reporting on a visible advertiser?

Temporal Bias - Is the story "breaking news"?  Does it relate to recent events?  Is there more backstory?

Visual Bias - Are any visual images used (photographs, infographics) misleading or emotionally charged?

Sensationalism - Are there shocking details?  Are there exaggerated details or topics that seem more for entertainment?

Narrative Bias - Is the writer trying too hard to create a narrative instead of reporting facts?

Fairness Bias - Are multiple sides of an issue presented?  Is the presentation neutral?

Expediency Bias - With a focus on being the first to report a story, are all angle explored in depth?

(Borrowed from the University of Texas Libraries "Evaluating News Sources"

Personal Bias

Bias is a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others, which often results in treating some people unfairly 

Explicit bias refers to attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) that we consciously or deliberately hold and express about a person or group. Explicit and implicit biases can sometimes contradict each other. 

Implicit bias includes attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) about other people, ideas, issues, or institutions that occur outside of our conscious awareness and control, which affect our opinions and behavior. Everyone has implicit biases—even people who try to remain objective (e.g., judges and journalists)—that they have developed over a lifetime. However, people can work to combat and change these biases.

Confirmation bias, or the selective collection of evidence, is our subconscious tendency to seek and interpret information and other evidence in ways that affirm our existing beliefs, ideas, expectations, and/or hypotheses. Therefore, confirmation bias is both affected by and feeds our implicit biases. It can be most entrenched around beliefs and ideas that we are strongly attached to or that provoke a strong emotional response.

From Facing History and Ourselves, Lesson 3: "Confirmation and Other Biases"