Bias and Research

In academic research, it is imperative that scholars remain objective. To do this, scholars use credible primary and secondary research to support their conclusions. Basically, they take their opinions out of the equation and rely on what research studies reveal about the topic. This enables scholars to avoid bias. Bias, in this context, is what happens when a scholar misleads the audience by pursuing an agenda despite what the facts or results state, misrepresenting or misstating other studies’ conclusions, or even falsifying or misinterpreting their own research.

While it is normal to have an opinion on your topic prior to your research, you need to remain open minded and look at what previous and current research is saying about the topic. If studies are all stating similar results, then you need to accurately represent and include them in your research. You need to give these studies an honest review and summary, even if you wish to address several flaws, gaps, or limitations with the studies’ results or designs in your research.

When crafting your research question, it is normal to speculate on possible answers to that question, but be sure your study is designed to answer that question objectively. Otherwise, your research will not be taken seriously by the academic community due to its bias.

applying research skills

It is difficult for many scholars to separate their feelings from their research, especially if their topic impacts the lives of others (i.e. health, wellbeing, etc.). Still, to truly advocate for the improved health, safety, or wellbeing of others, you will need to remain objective. Remember, academic research is never about your opinion or thoughts but is instead about your analysis and synthesis of secondary and primary research.

To help you do this, avoid the following phrases in your writing:

  • I think
  • I believe
  • I feel
  • Overly descriptive adjectives such as awful, tragic, terrible, etc.

Also, remember the academic community is a place where ideas are shared. While you certainly do not have to agree with others’ research ideas and results, you need to treat each scholar in your field with the respect they deserve. Otherwise, your research and results will not be accepted or respected by peers in your field.