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Bias

At the simplest level, 'bias' expresses the difference between fact and opinion. But texts are not always so simple - writers can make a highly-opinionated piece appear factual, or can choose to present facts and statistics in a selective, biased manner. Learning to spot bias will make you a careful, critical reader.

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  1. 'Those who will not admit to the existence of climate change continue driving everywhere, spewing toxic gases into the environment.' - Bias is evident in which parts of this sentence?
    A non-biased way of making the same point could be: 'Those who have not been convinced by the arguments for the existence of climate change show no change to their driving habits'
  2. 'As everyone knows, alcohol damages the developing brain. What is less-commonly known, however, is that the human brain continues to develop until the age of 20.' Where would you expect to find this combination of fact and opinion?
  3. 'Dr. Howard, lecturer in Nutrition at Anytown University, has shown that taking a daily fish oil supplement improves children's attainment in school by 20%. ' - What form does bias take in this sentence?
    If reporting on Dr. Howard's findings, the author would need to make bias explicit by using a phrase such as 'According to Dr. Howard' or 'Dr. Howard claims'
  4. 'Litter louts, who fling their greasy fast-food packaging down in the high street might as well be harbouring the rats their filthy habits attract.' - Bias is evident in which parts of this sentence?
  5. Which of the following statements is NOT a fact?
    Describing anything as a 'blot upon the landscape' is an example of emotive language and can only be an opinion, rather than a fact
  6. Which of the following is an example of a misleading fact?
    The statement which does not specify exactly which group of dentists (and how many) were surveyed is misleading. It might be a fact, but does not tell the reader any useful information. As few as ten dentists could have been surveyed - and the nine who agreed could have received a payment or free holiday in return for promoting the toothpaste!
  7. What does it mean to 'substantiate' a statement?
    A writer can substantiate a statement of fact or an opinion by providing evidence in support
  8. 'Young people just don't have the opportunity to get enough exercise these days and this is beginning to show in the increase in weight-related problems among this age group.' - What might be the writer's motive in making this claim?
  9. Which of the following statements shows bias?
  10. A statement of fact...
    A statement of fact can be proven to be true or false (when false, these statements are sometimes called 'false facts' or 'false claims'). A statement of fact will not include any bias in itself, but may be used to support a biased statement

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