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Evaluating Websites: Objectivity/Bias Questions

Includes Introductory Video and questions one must ask when evaluating websites

Objectivity/Bias Questions

  • Does the site have a bias?
    Hint: If the site deals with a controversial topic, look for an identification of the author's bias.
  • Is there a commercial or organizational interest associated with the site?
    Hint: Be aware that organizations, businesses, and individuals represent their own viewpoints in information presented through their websites. Organizations with a particular mission (e.g.,  environmental organizations) may publish only information that supports their point of view. Businesses may publish positive reviews of their own products and events. Also, be aware that a personal website may reflect strong political, religious, or social opinions of that individual.
  • Are there advertisements on the page? Is the page actually an ad disguised as information?
    Hint: Sometimes this is obvious; other times it may be very subtle. Look at the source of the site.
  • Is the site based on verifiable facts or opinions?
    Hint: Look for bibliographies and references to traditional publications.
  • Are inflammatory words, phrases or profanity used in the site?
    Hint: Look for personal attacks, ridicule and the use of emotional appeals rather than rational ones.
  • Are misleading or deceptive arguments used?
    Hint: Look for over-simplification of information, scare tactics, testimonials, over-generalizations, categorical statements, and exaggerations that are intended to persuade.
  • Are there fallacies in arguments and reasoning?
    Hint: Look for distorted data, information presented out-of-context, unstated assumptions, bandwagon persuasion techniques and other logical fallacies. Because of the capabilities of hypertext, it is easy to jump into a site at any point; this can lead to unintentionally viewing information out-of-context. Go back to the top of the page and read the purpose of the information. Become familiar with the surrounding text. to see a list of logical fallacies visit Stephen Downes Guide to the Logical Fallacies or test yourself with the Logical Fallacies Matching Game.
  • Are stereotypes or ethnocentric arguments used?

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