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SPURS - guide for instructors

Evaluating Viewpoints

Viewpoints, editorials, opinions

Viewpoints are most often found as op-eds in newspapers and magazines. Here is a guide to show your students: Find Opinions, Editorials & Viewpoints

When reading a viewpoint, consider the following:

  • Author: Who is the author? What is their stake in making this argument? How are they biased?
  • Audience and Publication: Who is this written for? Where is this published? What does that tell you, if anything, about the perspective?
  • Alternative views: How, if at all, does the author recognize and address opposing viewpoints?
  • Language: Does the author use language that indicates one side of a viewpoint? Is he dismissive of the opposing viewpoint?

What is bias?
Bias is when someone is inclined toward a viewpoint and is not considering the issue in an objective manner.

Is that a bad thing?
Sometimes! But not always and thank goodness because it's near impossible to be objective about all things all the time. Bias happens when we use what we know and what we believe to form a judgment about an issue.

How can I recognize bias?
Consider the author's...

  • Job
  • Expertise: What does she have a degree in? Does she teach in a particular discipline? Does she have an agenda?
  • Previous research: What other arguments has she made? Where else has she published and does that publication lean in a particular direction (conservative, liberal, etc.)?
  • Affiliation with professional and academic organizations

Examples:

  • Professor of Geology at the University of Texas, and member of the board of the Plains Exploration and Production Company (producers of natural gas), publishes an article in the newsletter of America's Gas Alliance about studies denying a link between fracking and groundwater contamination.
  • A West Texas rancher, writes a piece for Texas Monthly about fracking and its effect on livestock
  • Head of the Texas Medical Association, blogs about the impact of the chemicals used in fracking on human health.

Activity

Activity example - Choose several viewpoints, break students into groups, have them use the questionnaire answers as a class discussion. Feel free to adapt, but do not use my google form since it routes to me:
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4
Fill out this form!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.