By Teachers, For Teachers
In the information age, students have access to endless amounts of information, but not all this information is equal. Through social media, and the internet at large, children are exposed to a diverse range of opinions, backgrounds, motives, and more. Knowing how to spot a credible or biased source is a critical skill all students should learn.
Bias is defined by Merriam Webster online dictionary as an inclination of an outlook, especially a personal or sometimes unreasoned judgment. A biased source is when a writer uses a selection of facts or choice of words to convey a particular feeling or attitude on a specific topic. The writer of a biased source tries to persuade a reader on a certain point of view. Since social media is so prevalent today, biased sources are more commonplace than ever. New articles and links are uploaded every second from people in all parts of the world. Even in the field of journalism, the term media bias or “fake news” is often used today. Readers need to become savvy when they are presented with any informational material today. In today’s society, readers must understand not only how to recognize bias but also how to find credible sources in this digital informational age.
When reading or listening to any source today, it is important for the reader or listener to ask questions to help him or her understand if indeed a biased source lies in front of them. Who is the intended audience of the source? Is the author considered an authority on a particular subject matter or field of study? What impression has the source made on you? What facts, if any, are omitted in the piece? Readers can determine if a source is biased by knowing exactly what to look for. The readers can learn how to both identify and analyze broad information in any given source. One effective way to check if a source is biased is simply by comparing topics and controversial issues across multiple platforms.
The first step in checking to see if a source is biased is to find out if the purpose of the source is to persuade, endorse, promote, market, sell, or entertain. If the author’s purpose falls under any one of these categories, the source is most likely biased. If the article is providing a one-sided view of a controversial issue, it is most likely considered a biased source. If negative language is used to describe opposing viewpoints in the context, then the source in question is most likely biased. If advertisements or broken links appear on the website, the source is probably biased. After determining the author’s sole purpose of writing and reviewing the previous points, a reader should check the about page or mission statement. The value of this information helps readers to determine the reason the source was created in the first place. If a reader is still trying to figure out if the source in question is biased, consider checking All Sides, a source that provides multiple viewpoints on an issue.
Finding reputable sources is most important in gaining information on a subject matter, especially when it comes to acquiring knowledge, perspective, or clarification of facts. In the age of social media, finding a credible source is more challenging than ever before. If someone wants to find credible sources, the most effective technique is to be skeptical.
To obtain real facts on a subject, it is important to find sources that are neutral on issues. Credible sources are written to teach or inform a reader. To find credible sources, several steps can be used. First, check the author’s credentials and affiliations. See if this author has the expertise or experience to write about the subject matter. See if the author cites additional sources in his or her article. Look to see if the source is created by a reputable publisher, and most importantly, see if the source is up to date. Examine the published website to see if there are any relevant or current links provided for the reader to easily access. Lastly, see if there are any endorsements or reviews of the actual source. Above all, when finding credible sources, it’s best to seek scholarly articles or pieces written by educational organizations for facts and valued information.
Kathryn is a professional development expert and holds an MA in Literacy and Culture.