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90% of dentists say they would recommend Shinyclean toothpaste to their patients.


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.

Test your awareness of bias by trying this English revision quiz.

A statement of fact...
can be true or false
can only be true
can only be false
may contain bias
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
'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?
This is an example of an appeal to popularity
This is an example of a misleading fact
This is an example of an appeal to authority
There is no bias evident 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'
What does it mean to 'substantiate' a statement?
To rephrase the statement
To make a judgement about the statement
To offer an opinion
To support the statement with evidence
A writer can substantiate a statement of fact or an opinion by providing evidence in support
Which of the following statements is NOT a fact?
The number of wind farms either planned and approved or already in existence in Wales totals 73
Wind turbines, some of which are 127m in height, are a blot upon the natural landscape
Some of the newest turbines exceed the height of any other structures in Wales
Protesters argue that large-scale wind farms could be detrimental to tourism
Describing anything as a 'blot upon the landscape' is an example of emotive language and can only be an opinion, rather than a fact
Which of the following statements shows bias?
Temperatures rose today by as much as five degrees
An inch of rain fell in a 24-hour period
Last weekend's festival was a wash-out
Several performances and exhibitions were cancelled at the weekend due to persistent rainfall
'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?
A wine-taster's manual
A website warning of the dangers of under-age drinking and alcohol abuse
A magazine article describing a visit to a whisky distillery
An advert warning of the dangers of drink-driving
'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?
Those, will not, continue driving
will not, existence, climate change
admit, spewing, toxic
driving, everywhere, environment
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'
Which of the following is an example of a misleading fact?
The newspaper's film reviewer awarded the new release four stars
Nine percent of all GCSE pupils received an A* in last summer's exams
Tickets to the concert sold out within hours of being released
90% of dentists say they would recommend Shinyclean toothpaste to their patients
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!
'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?
Litter louts, greasy, high street
fling, packaging, rats
Litter louts, habits, attract
Litter louts, fling, might as well, harbouring, filthy
'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?
The writer might be promoting a new gym aimed specifically at young people
The writer could be advertising a range of indulgent snack foods
The writer could be concerned about the recent 'dumbing down' of exams
The writer might be advertising a new comedy aimed at young people
Author:  Sheri Smith

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