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IF I APPLY: Identifying Bias & Resource Credibility

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Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.  It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

Is this resource appropriate for the need of now?

Before you begin to think critically about the resource at hand, it is important to make sure that it is appropriate for the current need.  Also, it is crucial to remember that if a resource, or specific information, is not appropriate in one case, it very well may be useful in a different context. 

Do not think about resources and information as "good" or "bad" - information selection and determining it's usefulness is not a black or white, yes or no, process.  Make selections based on the current need.


For example, one Think Question asks, "Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?"  If the answer is "yes" - next think, "Am I searching for resources that demonstrate a particular point of view or agenda?"  If the answer is no, maybe moving on from this source is the next step.  If the answer is yes, maybe investigating further to see if the source truly suits the research need at hand is the next step.



Identifying emotions:

  • What are your honest opinions regarding the topic?
  • Have you addressed your internal biases?
  • Make an all-inclusive list of counter-opinions or counter-arguments.

Finding unbiased resources:

  • Conduct a general knowledge overview.
  • Search for information in : encyclopedias, wikis, dictionaries, etc.

Intellectual courage:




  • Who is the author (may be individual or organization) and/or publisher?
  • What are the credentials and affiliation or sponsorship of any named individuals or organizations?
  • How objective, reliable, and authoritative are they?
  • Have they written other articles or books?
  • Is/Are the author(s) listed with contact information (street address, e-mail)?
  • Do they specialize in publishing certain topics or fields?

Purpose/Point of view of source 

  • Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?
  • What can be said about the content, context, style, structure, completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the source?
  • Are any conclusions offered? If so, based on what evidence and supported by what primary and secondary documentation?
  • What is implied by the content?
  • Are diverse perspectives represented?
  • Is the content relevant to your information needs?
  • Why was the information provided by the source published?
  • What are the perspectives, opinions, assumptions and biases of whoever is responsible for this information?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is anything being sold?
  • Does the publisher have an agenda?
  • When was the information published?
    • Publication date is generally located on the title page or on the reverse side of the title page (copyright date).
  • Is the information provided by the source in its original form or has it been revised to reflect changes in knowledge?
  • Has the publisher published other works?
  • Is this information timely and is it updated regularly?
  • Is the publisher scholarly (university press, scholarly associations)? Commercial? Government agency? Self (“vanity”) press?
List of resources
  • Where else can the information provided by the source be found?
  • Is this information authentic?
  • Is this information unique or has it been copied?
Year of publication
  • Is this information current? Can you find more current or relevant information?
  • Is the cited information current? Make sure work is not based on outdated research, statistics, data, etc.
  • Is the information routinely updated?