Chapter 3-1: Writer Bias and Prejudice

Reading > Literary Analysis > Bias and Prejudice

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines bias as:

Analyzing the author's bias can tell readers a lot about a text. Knowing the author’s stance on a topic can help readers to more easily glean meaning from a text. In fact, author bias may even invalidate an author's claim. Here are some questions that can be asked to flesh out writer bias and prejudice:

  • What experiences in the author's background may have led him or her to hold the position s/he does?

  • Can s/he gain anything from this position?

  • Who is paying for the article? Is the author selling anything? Does the author belong to an extreme organization or to a media outlet that leans in one direction or another?

  • How does the author's position compare to other positions on the issue? This involves some research.

  • Are there any facts missing? Does the author consciously only present evidence that tells one side of the story? Is information that contracts the author’s point purposefully ignored or withheld in order to position the author’s claims in the best light possible?

  • Is additional information necessary?

  • Are words creating negative or positive impressions?

  • What different impressions would readers have if different words were used?

  • Does the language contain several “intensifier” words? Is the language extreme, inflammatory, or “charged” in some way (racially, etc.)?

  • Does the argument appeal more to emotions than logic?

  • Are statements oversimplified over overgeneralized?

  • Is the author being dishonest by outright manufacturing or falsifying information?

Simply because someone has a bias does not automatically mean that they have written something invalid. It is interesting to note, if you are aware that a piece of media is biased, that it is still useable as a reference in your own work as long as you point out its underlying bias or provide opposing positions to “balance out” the topic.

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