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What is author bias mean

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What is author bias mean
November 18, 2018 Anniversary Wishes 1 comment

Bias, prejudice mean a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about something or someone. A bias may be favorable or unfavorable: bias in.

Evaluating Sources

What are the Author's Biases?

Every author holds opinions that affect his or her discussion of an issue, opinions that you as a reader must try to recognize and understand. Even the most seemingly factual report, such as an encyclopedia article, can carry an understated or implied judgment. Such judgments reflect an author's bias or preference for one side of an issue over another.

As you evaluate a source, consider whether the author's bias affects his or her presentation of information and opinions. Ask whether this results in one side of an issue being treated more favorably than another. To explore an author's biases, you must ask where his or her allegiances lie. Is the bias hidden or stated? Ask yourself if you need to look for a balancing viewpoint or approach?

Just because an author has a strong bias does not mean that he or she has written something invalid. However, in the interest of being prepared to fend off attacks from those who want to challenge your analysis or argument, it is best if you recognize, early on, to what biases an author does hold.

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If a newspaper article is biased, this means that an unfair preference for someone Did the author give you access to the full study? Did the.

Identify bias

what is author bias mean

Is That a Credible Source?

When defining rhetoric, the art of persuasive speech and writing, the Greek philosopher Aristotle defined three ways in which the speaker or writer could make a convincing argument. The first was logos, the use of logical and sound reasoning in one's argument. The second was pathos, the use of emotional appeals.

And the last, and perhaps most misunderstood, is ethos. Though it is often translated today as 'ethics' - the two words share a root - and it goes beyond the writer just being ethical, which means they aren't just lying or manipulating the audience. Ethos is the writer's general credibility.

When reading a piece of writing meant to persuade you to a particular viewpoint, i.e. persuasive writing, it is important to assess the writer's ethos when deciding how convincing their argument is. Some ways to do this include looking at the writer's authority on the topic, their willingness to acknowledge other viewpoints, and ability to limit and qualify their argument.


Determining a writer's authority to speak on a topic may seem pretty straightforward, but can be pretty thorny. Simply put, this means looking at the writer's background and depth of knowledge about the topic, and then determining whether or not to trust them. So, for example, if you are reading about climate change, someone with a Ph.D in climatology is probably going to have more authority than your buddy who sits next to you in science class.

But it gets more complicated than this. Just having a fancy degree is not enough to make someone credible. People will often try to claim false authority by asserting that their expertise in one field translates into another. So a Ph.D in English literature, for example, is not going to necessarily give someone more authority on climate change than your buddy in class.

But to counter this, a lack of a Ph.D, or other formal qualification, does not necessarily mean someone does not have any authority. Maybe your buddy in science class is deeply passionate about climate change and has read deeply in the subject. He might be useful.

So look at how a writer talks about a topic. Do they understand technical terms? Did they get the facts straight? Do they demonstrate deep engagement with the topic? This is often the best way to determine authority.

And finally, you should never judge credibility on authority alone. You also want to consider these next two factors.

Engaging With Other Viewpoints

Persuasive writing deals with controversial topics. A controversial topic, by definition, is something that reasonable people disagree on. For example, no one needs to write a persuasive essay on why we should not kill babies and eat them. Everyone already agrees that this is bad.

So a credible writer on a controversial topic will acknowledge that there are people who disagree with them and, possibly, that the opposition might be right about a few things. A credible writer has read people who disagree with them, and tried to understand things from their point of view, even if they ultimately don't agree. They play what writing teacher Peter Elbow has called the 'believing game' - putting themselves in the shoes of someone else, and trying to see things from their perspective.

A credible piece of persuasive writing will first and foremost acknowledge that other viewpoints exist. If the writer acts as if their idea is as obvious as not eating babies and no reasonable person would disagree with them, that's a big red flag. And, a really credible writer engages with the other arguments, explaining in detail why they do not agree and possibly even acknowledging that the other side is right about a few things.

Limiting One's Argument

A writer who has both expertise in the topic and engagement with other viewpoints will often have a properly limited and narrow view of their own argument. By this, I mean that they do not claim more than their evidence allows. This is most often seen in the use of scientific studies.

Let's say a scientific study showed that lab rats exposed to rap music for an hour per day were 55% more likely to develop cancer than lab rats that didn't listen to rap. A credible writer would look at this evidence and say that there is an interesting increase in the likelihood of cancer among the rap-listening rats and perhaps more studies should be performed about this connection. A writer who is not credible would use this study for their anti-rap persuasive essay, claiming, possibly in all caps, 'RAP MUSIC CAUSES CANCER! WE MUST OUTLAW IT IMMEDIATELY!'

Lesson Summary

Ethos, or the speaker's credibility, is one of the key aspects of rhetoric and all forms of persuasive writing. There is no finite way to determine a writer's credibility, but important factors include examining the writer's authority.

Ways of determining a writer's authority could include formal training and degrees, but can also be the level of expertise the speaker displays in talking about a subject. Beware of writers claiming false authority who think you should listen to them just because they have a fancy degree, but no other expertise.

Other factors include a willingness to engage with, and understand, other points of view on the topic. Anyone who thinks their stance on a controversial issue is as obvious as not eating babies is suspect. And, a writer's evidence should limit their argument. Using one scientific study to say rap music causes cancer, thus rap music should be illegal is not a credible argument.

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Assessing Writer Credibility & Bias

what is author bias mean

How to Recognize Bias in a Newspaper Article

Reading the Article CriticallyDigging Deeper into the NewspaperExamining Multiple Sides' CoverageArticle SummaryQuestions & AnswersRelated ArticlesReferences

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD. Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014.

There are 18 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

With all the information that's out there these days, it's important to be able to recognize bias in the news. If a newspaper article is biased, this means that an unfair preference for someone or something affected the way the reporter wrote the piece. The reporter might favor one side of a debate or a particular politician, and this could cloud the reporting. Sometimes, reporters don't even mean to be biased; they may do it by accident or because they didn't do enough research. To wade through this kind of reporting, you'll need to read very carefully, and you may even need to do your own research.



Reading the Article Critically

  1. 1

    Read the whole article carefully. Reading every single word in a newspaper article can be super time consuming, but it's worth it when you're trying to find bias in the reporting. Biases can be really subtle and hard to catch, so pay careful attention to the entire article.[1]
    • Set aside time each day to tackle one article at a time. This will help you practice the kind of skills you need to recognize bias, and you'll go faster each time. Start by giving yourself about a half hour for an article that's a few pages long.
  2. 2

    Look at the headline. Some people only read headlines, so they're designed to communicate a clear point as quickly as possible. This means that using just a few words, most headlines make an argument. Evaluate each word to check whether they describe something positively or negatively. Ask yourself why the headline might not be totally neutral.[2]
    • For example, the headline "Hundreds Attend Peaceful Protest" tells a different story than "Angry Riot Confronts Police."
  3. 3

    Ask yourself if the article helps or hurts anyone. Look at the words used to describe the people, political issues, and events mentioned in the article. If the language makes them sound good or bad, rather than just neutral, the reporter may be trying to influence you to favor one side over another.[3]
    • After you're finished reading, take a minute to think about how you feel about the issue the article covered. Do you suddenly want to support a particular politician or fall on one side of political debate? If so, you'll need to think about whether the article convinced you with facts or slanted language.
  4. 4

    Figure out who's reading the article. Think about who typically reads this kind of article. Reporters might want to write stories that their readers will appreciate, which could lead to biased reporting. Try running a Google search to look for descriptions of the typical age, gender, racial background, income, and political leanings for the audiences of several newspapers and media outlets.[4]
    • Enter something like “demographics of New York Times readers” into the Google search bar. You may find information that's a few years out of date, but your search should still give you a broad idea of who reads the paper.
    • Understanding newspapers' usual demographics can help you think about what various groups of people care about. Younger readers might have strong feelings about education, since they're still students. Older readers might want content about taxes and retirement.
  5. 5

    Look for exaggerated or colorful language. Consider whether the words the reporter uses in the article are informational or emotional. Watch out any time that a word or description makes you feel a strong emotion. If overly descriptive words are used to represent a particular group of people or side of a debate, this could be an especially big red flag.[5]
    • For example, an informational description of a politician could look like this: “Senator Smith is originally from Connecticut and is thirty years old.” Check out how this description makes the same content emotional: “Senator Smith comes from a rich town in Connecticut and is just barely out of her twenties.”
    • Look for words that reveal the reporter's double standards. For example, one person might be described as "passionate and inspired" while another might be described as "stubborn and rash," even if both people are showing dedication to a particular cause.
  6. 6

    Identify the reporter's tone to see how they feel about the topic. Take note of any language that gives you a positive or negative feeling about information. If this emotion is coming from the way the reporter is writing the story, ask yourself why the reporter feels this way. They may be sad or happy about a particular event, or angry at someone.[6]
    • Focus on how the tone of the article changes the way you read the information rather than associating the intent directly to the reporter.
    • The best way to monitor your own emotions is to think about whether it's the topic that's making you feel something, or the way the article is written. Maybe the article is about a new amusement park opening in your town. This could be great news, and you may just be pumped about it. But if the article is about something you wouldn't normally feel strongly about, and you do, ask yourself why.
  7. 7

    Check out the images to look for bias. Photographs, cartoons, and other images tell stories just like words. Look for the main subject in the image and think about how this person or thing looks. Take note of any shadows or colors that make the subject appear scary or triumphant. Consider how the picture makes you feel, especially if you're suddenly feeling sympathetic toward a particular group of people or side of a political debate.[7]

  8. 8

    Make a list of the sources in the article. Determine how the reporter made their point. Look at every person who's quoted, and check which company or organization they represent. Consider whether one type of organization gets more coverage in the article than others.[8]
    • Maybe the article is about a military conflict in a different country. Did the reporter quote from a balanced list of all the different people involved in the conflict? This list would probably include military officers and leaders, diplomats, politicians, and, most importantly, people from the actual country where the conflict is located. If the article only quotes, say, military personnel, read carefully to try and understand why that is.
  9. 9

    Examine the statistics and studies cited in the article. It's hard to argue with numbers, which is why they're included in so much reporting. Don't let statistics intimidate you, even if you're not a math person. You can still evaluate how the reporter used these numbers. Determine the connection between the stats and the author's main point, and check to see if the stats make sense.[9]
    • Is the data cited in the article, or only the conclusions of the study? Did the author give you access to the full study? Did the author skim over the statistics without much detail and then make a strongly worded conclusion based on evidence they didn't really give you?
    • If the article is only citing a small amount of information or data, ask yourself why that is. There may be other information in the study that the reporter decided to leave out.


Digging Deeper into the Newspaper

  1. 1

    Research the newspaper to find out their reputation. Some newspapers and media outlets have a reputation for giving a particular slant on the news. Take note of the newspaper's typical audience and the issues they usually support. However, don't allow this research to keep you from reading each article critically. If we assume that something's biased, we'll believe that it is before we even read it![10]
    • Check out websites such as Wikipedia and Snopes to see if the newspaper is known to have a particular bias.
    • Evaluate the sources you use to check the credibility of the newspaper. Many initial Google searches will pull up websites that insist on a bias.
  2. 2

    Look at the URL if you're online. Sometimes, the website itself can give you a clue about whether your article is biased or even made up. A weirdly named outlet that you've never heard of may not be reliable. If the URL ends in .co, this could be a sign that you've found an illegitimate outlet posing as a real source of news.[11]
    • You should also be suspicious of weird language and typing in either the URL or the article. Anything that has lots of typos, all CAPS, or exclamation points needs a super close read. It could easily be biased or made up.
  3. 3

    Read the “About Us” section for online media sources. Reputable news outlets will give you this kind of information. It should let you know who supports or owns the website or newspaper. If you can't find this section, it could be a sign that the news outlet is trying to hide a sketchy source of income or information.[12]

  4. 4

    Observe the placement of stories online or in a paper. Placement of stories tell you what the newspaper thinks matters and doesn't matter in the world today. In a paper newspaper, the front page contains the big-deal stories, while the ones in the back are considered less important. In a digital newspaper, the articles the editors think are most important will be near the top of the front page or on a sidebar.[13]
    • What topics are covered in the most important and least important stories, based on placement? What does this coverage tell you about the newspaper's priorities?
  5. 5

    Spend some time looking at the ads. Newspapers and news outlets need money to keep them running. Ads provide that money. Check where the majority of ads are coming from, and determine the category of the organization or company represented in the ads. This will let you know who the newspaper doesn't want to make angry through their reporting.[14]
    • If one company or industry comes up in lots of ads, this could be a problem. It'll be difficult for a newspaper to provide unbiased coverage if they're trying to keep someone happy and out of the news.
  6. 6

    Keep a record of the articles you read and biases you find. The more you read, the more you'll discover about individual newspapers and the types of articles they write. Keep a journal of the articles you read, the newspapers they come from, and any biases you find. Be sure to note what the bias was in favor of or against.


  1. 1

    Read more than one article about the same topic. Find articles from different newspapers or media outlets covering the same topic. Read critically to look for the different newspapers' biases and compare them to one another. Use these comparisons to find facts that appear in both pieces. You can then make your own judgment about a debate, person, or event.[15]

  2. 2

    Consider what or who the reporter didn't talk about. This is especially important if the reporter is covering a hot-button debate. Both sides should be represented in unbiased articles. If the article is about a particular group of people, and the reporter didn't quote any of those people, this could be a warning sign for bias.[16]
    • For example, if you're reading a story about an environmental issue, and the article only cites politicians, think about why they didn't quote any scientists. Is it because the topic was only related to politicians, or is the reporter ignoring one side of a debate?
  3. 3

    Look for articles written by people from different groups. Most articles could be written entirely differently by a person with a different perspective. Look for articles written by people from different age groups, genders, regions of the country, political parties, and racial backgrounds. Think about how multiple perspectives add to your understanding of one, single topic.[17]
    • This may mean that you read one newspaper article and one blog post. It's okay to read different kinds of sources to check on the bias of newspaper articles. Just be sure to read critically and carefully no matter where you find your information.
    • As you read more articles or sources, you'll find that people, events, and debates are always super complicated. This means that there won't be one simple explanation for any issue. Don't get stressed out by this. Just try to learn as much as you can by reading widely. The more you know, the more prepared you'll be to deal with complex problems.
  4. 4

    Go online or look on social media to see if the article got feedback. Sometimes, newspapers articles make people angry, frustrated, or (less often) excited. You can run a Google search to check if your article generated this kind of response. You might also want to check out Twitter if your article was published recently. Controversies over biased coverage can quickly go viral.[18]
    • Looking for this feedback can tell you a lot about who supports the content in the article and who doesn't. While this won't necessarily tell you if the article itself is biased, it's a great way to discover who appreciates the reporting. This will help you figure out who the article helps and who it hurts.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question

    What if they interview people from one side and none from the other? Would that be biased or not?

    Check whether the author uses the interview as evidence to favor one side. If yes, it would probably be considered bias but that depends on the context. If no, the interview is just being used to inform the reader more (not considered bias). Also, be aware that balance is not achieved by digging up an extreme fringe group to state their case as some counter-balance to the wider majority and minority insights into an issue -- that would be trying to manufacture a balance that suggests the extremists are legitimate in their fringe beliefs or opinions when few people would consider them reliable.

  • Question

    Why is it important to recognize bias?

    It's important to be able to recognize bias because this kind of knowledge and skill will help you form your own opinions. You don't just want to repeat what someone else thinks without knowing the facts and picking your own side!

  • Question

    How do you find a bias? I don't understand.

    It can take a lot of experience and a good deal of knowledge of the subject at hand to recognize bias. But, for example, you could notice bias in a newspaper article announcing the results of a presidential primary in which one candidate won one state and the other candidate won another state, but the headline or article really emphasizes the win of one of the candidates and downplays the other. It can be easier to recognize bias if you frequently read work by the same author or paper, and compare it to how other sources report on the same subject - you may start noticing patterns in who or what the author/paper tends to write more positively/negatively about, and you can question whether that's justified by facts or just a bias.

  • Question

    Is the article biased if the reporter uses the word "I?"

    Usually, reporters won't use the first person (which includes the pronoun "I") in their reporting. If you see the word "I," you may be reading either an editorial or a column, pieces in which reporters write about their own opinions. You might also be reading a personal reflection, which are also sometimes printed in newspapers.

  • Question

    What if it's from the 1850s?

    The date is irrelevant. You would look for the same clues as to a reporter's bias.

Ask a Question


  • When looking for biases in newspaper articles, think about how your own personal biases might influence your reaction to the article.
  • Learn to differentiate between actual made up news and satirical articles. Some websites, such as TheOnion.com, provide parodies of current events.

You'll find examples of author bias in any book you open. Likewise, you catch more readers with more subtle means than shoving your.

Examples of Bias

what is author bias mean

It's important to understand when you are researching because it helps you see the purpose of a text, whether it's a piece of writing, a painting, a photograph - anything.

You need to be able to bias in every source you use. The following questions will help you work out how reliable and accurate information is.

Who created the resource?

Whether it's a book, journal article, website or photograph, sources are influenced by the ideas of the person who created them. Think about:

  • the creator's age, religion, race and occupation

For example

If you and your teacher both had to write an essay about the importance of homework, you would probably give very different answers...

  • whether the creator is presenting the whole story – you'll need to read widely to get all perspectives
    whether the creator is an expert on the topic.

When was the resource created?

Any type of resource you look at will reflect the society and time in which it was created.

So it's useful to think about the events, people and ideas – or – that surround it. Keep in mind that:

  • the less time between the event and the time of writing, the more likely certain details – such as dates, names and locations – will be accurate
  • older documents show us what life was like in the past, and can also reveal attitudes that may be uncommon or unacceptable today
  • particular formats – such as diaries, emails, video, sms, etc – reflect the era in which they were created, so think about what the format reveals about the resource
  • even if the resource is only a few years old, it may not be the most up-to-date information, especially if it is part of an ongoing study or changing theories.

Why was the resource created?

Writers, artists, historians, photographers and other creators will sometimes use their work to persuade people about a particular viewpoint or interpretation of an idea or event. So, it's important to work out why the resource was created. Remember:

  • the creator's purpose is, more often than not, the message you remember long after you've finished reading or looking at it
  • in printed material, look for a range of that are supported by different sources – this helps you make up your own mind about the information being presented
  • in secondary sources a bibliography is often a good sign of a reputable resource, but you'll need to check whether the references listed are reliable and credible.

Who was the resource created for?

Many different kinds of resources – from maps, government documents and diaries to photographs, websites and advertising materials – are created for many different audiences.

So it's important to think about how the intended audience has affected the format and overall message in the resource. Ask yourself:

  • Who is the target audience?

For example

A teen magazine, travel website or tabloid newspaper has a very different audience to an academic journal, government annual report or a reputable broadsheet newspaper. You would expect the approach to text in each of these publications to be very different.

  • Did the creator intend for their work to be looked at by someone else?

For example

Someone's personal diary is a great primary resource, but it's important to remember that it presents that individual's . The author probably wasn't expecting their writing to be read by others, so they wouldn't necessarily have presented an objective and balanced account.

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Evaluating Bias in Reading

To be objective means to write with curiosity, rather than having a preset opinion, while the writer is also assuming all girls are better behaved, showing a bias.

what is author bias mean
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