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San Diego State University

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Lesson 9: Avoiding Biases


In addition to ensuring that questions are clearly stated, it is necessary to avoid incorporating biases into questions. Recognizing biases is the first and crucial step to avoiding them. To address this, this lesson considers how questions may incorporate stereotypes. It then examines why questions that asking for second-hand information about others’ views are problematic. It finally considers how to avoid biases and leading questions.

Lesson Objectives

The lesson addresses the following points:
  1. evaluate whether questions involve implicit or explicit stereotypes
  2. identify questions that request respondents to make assumptions about others or provide responses about what other individuals beliefs are
  3. identify and revise questions that are leading or imply a given response

Lesson Resources

Learning Activities

  1. Hidden biases
    1. Have students explore the Project Implicit website starting with the background information.
    2. Have them review one of the tests presented in the FAQs section.
    3. During class, ask students to report on the test they reviewed and have them create several questions that would incorporate hidden biases.
    4. Exchange the questions and have students identify the biases incorporated into the questions.
  2. Telephone game
    1. Tell one student in the class a story so no one else can hear.
    2. Have that student recount it for the student next to them without letting others hear the story.
    3. Continue the process until everyone hears the story.
    4. Have the first student and last student compare the stories they were told.
  3. Biased and complex questions
    1. Review the biased and complex questions websites listed above.
    2. Copy the questions and distributed them to students in class.
    3. Have them identify the biased nature of the question and revise the question to remove the bias.

Reflection/Discussion Topics

  1. Why is that people are often unaware of their own biases?
  2. What makes second-hand accounts so reliable? Is this based on the same problem of the unreliability of eyewitness accounts?
  3. What makes it difficult to identify biases questions?

Additional Resources

Marketing Research Society. (n.d.). Code of Conduct. Retrieved from website: Best practices for protecting individual privacy in conducting survey research.