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Evaluating Online Sources: Bias & Perspective

A guide to help you decipher what is credible and what is not.

Closer Reading

The SIFT moves (described on this guide's first page) are great for initially evaluating online source credibility. Once you establish that a source is overall credible and useful for your work, you'll often want to read and evaluate the source more closely looking closely for bias and perspective.

While some sources are primarily informative and others are more opinion-driven, almost all sources reflect a certain perspective (and along with it some degree of bias). This perspective influences what information the creator includes or excludes and how they present that information.

Rather than looking for sources that are completely free of any bias, recognize that most sources have some degree of bias. This is not necessarily a bad thing: people's personal experiences and viewpoints often provide important insights into an issue. Consider what the source creator's perspective is, what expertise they have on the topic, and what evidence they use to support their claims or arguments. Verify evidence by reading laterally and looking at other sources, including ones that may present a different perspective that is still well supported by evidence.

A Note about Perspective & Bias

The Human Brain & Confirmation Bias

Our brains are wired to believe things that fit with our preexisting views and to disbelieve those things that challenge our views. This phenomenon is called confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias plays a powerful role in how we evaluate and use information. It's a major reason that misinformation easily spreads online. Learn more from this video about how confirmation bias influences us and we can counteract it.

 


Investigating Your Own Biases

Confirmation bias illustrates that we all have have our own perspectives and biases, which are influenced by own unique backgrounds and experiences. Being aware of your own biases can help you evaluate sources, arguments, and your own ideas more critically. Consider the strategies for minimizing bias that the journalists in this video share: