Teaching source credibility and bias
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Teaching Source Credibility and Bias. Standard 6.8 – Evaluating Sources. Essential question. What do my students need to evaluate when choosing sources for their research projects?. Research Assignment. This year you will write a research paper that involves literary analysis.

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Teaching source credibility and bias

Teaching Source Credibility and Bias

Standard 6.8 – Evaluating Sources

Essential question
Essential question

  • What do my students need to evaluate when choosing sources for their research projects?

Research assignment
Research Assignment

  • This year you will write a research paper that involves literary analysis.

  • We will begin research this month, and you need to know how to choose good sources.

Primary or secondary
Primary or Secondary

  • Primary Sources: Literary works (poems, short stories, novels, essays, plays); documents, autobiographies; letters; interviews; speeches; surveys; tables of statistics

  • Secondary Sources: Comment on or analysis of an original text; biographies

Primary sources
Primary Sources

  • Credibility is not an issue

    • WHY?

  • Bias, however, may need to be a consideration

    • WHY?

Secondary sources
Secondary Sources

  • Evaluation of these sources is essential

  • Credibility of authorship, authenticity, accuracy, and bias may be an issue

Evaluating the source
Evaluating the source

  • Usefulness

  • Credibility

  • Bias


  • Your purpose: What will this source add to your research project? Will it help support a major point, demonstrate you have researched thoroughly, or help establish your own credibility as a conscientious researcher?

Is it crap

  • Currency

  • How recent is the information?

  • How recently has the website been updated?

  • Is it current enough for your topic?

  • Reliability

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?

  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion? Is is balanced?

  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

  • Authority

  • Who is the creator or author?

  • What are the credentials?

  • Who is the published or sponsor?

  • Are they reputable?

  • What is the publisher’s interest (if any) in this information?

  • Are there advertisements on the website?

  • Purpose/Point of View

  • Is this fact or opinion?

  • the creator/author trying to sell you something?

  • Is it biased?


  • Relevance: Is the source relevant to your project, or are you simply listing sources to meet a quota?


  • Level of specialization:General sources can be helpful when you are beginning your research, but you may need more specialized or more current resources. Ask yourself, “Who was this source written for? A general audience? A more specialized group?” How does this resource fit with your audience and purpose.


  • Credentials of the publisher or sponsor:What can you learn about the newspaper or sponsor of the source? For example, is it a newspaper known for integrity or is it a tabloid? Is it a popular source, or is it sponsored by a professional organization or academic institution? Is the book published by a company you recognize or can locate easily on the web?


  • Credentials of the author:An author’s credentials often are included on the back cover or flap covers of the book. When researching, does the author’s name come up in other sources? He may be influential in his field


  • Date of the publication:Recent publication dates may be more useful in the sciences or other fields where change is frequent and current information is essential. However, in the Humanities, the most authoritative works may be the oldest. Publications dates on the web are difficult to assess, which explains why MLA suggests recording the date you accessed the information instead of a publication date.


  • Accuracy of the source:Can you locate other sources that corroborate this source? In other words, can you find other sources that have similar information or support parts of what you find in this source?


  • Cross-references to the source:Is the source cited in other works? If you see the source cited other places, notice what another author says about the source. Another’s comments may give you insight into the credibility.

Teaching source credibility and bias

  • Stance of the source:It’s important to identify the source’s point of view (bias).Would the author have a reason to slant the information? Omit essential facts or details? Identifying the source is the first step toward evaluating whether the source’s bias would be a concern. For instance, would the source be trying to convince you of an idea? Sell something? Call you to action? Do any of those purposes call the information in the source into question?

What is bias
What is bias?

According to Webster's Dictionary online:

Biasis defined as:

  • an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment: PREJUDICE

Looking for bias
Looking for bias

In Politics

Rush Limbaugh, Radio Talk Show Host

  • Example: Proclaimed right wing republican uses his talk show to promote his party's platform beliefs

Looking for bias1
Looking for bias

In SELF-PROMOTERSAuthors of books, websites, or various written works promote their works for self-gratification.

  • Example: Toyota Today Magazine rating its Toyota cars as the best in its class based on some specifications outlined by them.

Looking for bias2
Looking for bias

In FINANCE: A individual or company creates website to advertise a product or service.

  • Example: Receiving Tax Tips from a website designed and maintained by H&R Block.

Looking for bias3
Looking for bias

From SPONSORS:An individual or company supports a website with the intention of gaining exposure.

  • Example: Gaining interview and resume writing tips from a website sponsored by Kelly  and Manpower Temporary Services.com

Red flags for source credibility
Red Flags for source credibility

  • Anonymity – no author or sponsoring entity

  • Negative reviews by other sources

  • Misspelled words and poor grammar

  • Vague or sweeping generalizations

  • One-sided viewpoint that does not address an opposing side

Red flags
Red Flags

  • Intemperate tone or language ("stupid jerks," "shrill cries of my extremist opponents") 

  • Overclaims ("Thousands of children are murdered every day in the United States.") 

  • Sweeping statements of excessive significance ("This is the most important idea ever conceived!") 

  • Conflict of Interest ("Welcome to the Old Stogie Tobacco Company Home Page. To read our report, 'Cigarettes Make You Live Longer,' click here." or "The products our competitors make are dangerous and bad for your health.")

Red flags1
Red Flags

  • Numbers or statistics presented without an identified source for them 

  • Absence of source documentation when the discussion clearly needs such documentation 

  • You cannot find any other sources that present the same information or acknowledge that the same information exists (lack of corroboration)

Cues from urls
Cues from URLs

edu = educational institution http://docsouth.unc.edu.

gov = US government site http://memory.loc.gov.

org = organization or association http://www.theaha.org.

com = commercial site http://www.historychannel.com.

museum = museum http://nc.history.museum.

net = personal or other site http://www.californiahistory.net

Choosing a resource
Choosing a resource

  • Your topic is acid rain and its effect on automobile paint. Would you be more likely to find relevant information in:

    • A brochure advertising Ford’s newest “Green” models

    • A National Geographic article on changing weather patterns

    • A study conducted by BMW on exterior paint for cars

    • ICAR research on automobile safety in hurricane force wind and rain


  • The correct answer is C because it specifically refers to automobile exterior paint.

    • All of the other sources listed do not refer to automobile paint. They may deal with rain – but nothing indicates they refer to acid rain. Therefore,

Which website
Which website?

For a research paper on the history of the sport of lacrosse, which website will be the most relevant and reliable?

  • www.lacrosse.com (home page of the Great Atlantic Lacrosse Company, which sells lacrosse equipment)

  • www.lacrosse.org (home page of US Lacrosse, the governing body over men and women’s lacrosse teams in the US)

  • www.lacrosseuniversity.com (website of Lacrosse University in Bay St. Louis, MS)

  • www.warriorlacrosse.com (website of manufacturer of lacrosse equipment


The correct answer is B. Option A and D both represent retail companies who sell sporting equipment. Their websites would be unlikely to have much information about the history of the sport. Option C is a link to a university. Option B is a link to an organization that oversees the development and rules of the sport, thus they would be more likely to have information about the history of the sport.

Assess the source
Assess the source

Rank each of these websites from 1(low) to 4 (high) according to how reliable and accurate you think they would be:

  • The most recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics on unemployment

  • Twelfth-grader’s blog on the history of silent films

  • Wikipedia article about a controversial political issue

  • An editorial about Abraham Lincoln from the New York Times, January 1862

Support your ranking
Support your ranking

Explain your reasons for ranking each website to a partner.

Did you and your partner agree on the rankings?


Harris, Robert. “Evaluating Internet Sources.” Virtual Salt. June 15, 2007. January 12, 2010. http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm. Web.

Lunsford, Andrea A. The Everyday Writer: Fourth Edition. Boston:

Bedford- St. Martin’s Press, 2009. 170-171. Print