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Arkansas State University

Evaluating Websites: Objectivity

How to tell the good from the bad.

Objectivity

Often, the Internet serves as a virtual soapbox -- a place where anyone can rant, rave, push their views or belittle others.  When doing research online, you need to look at the objectivity of the site.  In other words, make sure the site presents information in a fair and balanced way. 

Anytime you see a bias, whether you agree with the bias or not, it's a good idea to balance that bias with the opposing viewpoint to make sure you're getting the most objective information. Bias isn't absolutely bad, but even someone with the best intentions can have factual errors or major omissions whenever there are strong feelings involved. (Note: it's also a good idea to check your own biases when doing research!)


If you do find a bias in a web page, here are some questions to think about:

Is the bias hidden or deceptive?  Why would someone hide their bias?

Are the advertisements and/or sponsors of the page are biased?  If so, what effect does that have on the page itself? 

To what degree does the bias interfere with the quality of the information? 

Is the author paid or given incentives to write positive reviews?

Examples

NARAL Pro-Choice America                     Conservapedia
NARAL Pro-Choice America   Conservapedia 
The bias is obvious.   Again, the bias is obvious.
     
Institute for Historical Review   Martin Luther King, Jr. -
A True Historical Examination
 ISH website    Martin Luther King, Jr. site
While it bills itself as "an independent educational research and publishing center that works to promote peace, understanding and justice," this site contains anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi links and information.  The site is also known as ""world's leading Holocaust denial organization."  

MLK Site Detail

Remember the MLK site from the previous page?
This hate site is hosted by a white power group.