Objective Writing Tips: Keeping Your Research Paper Free of Bias
Objective writing is essential for writing an effective and credible research paper. Bias weakens your position and your paper. You can keep your research paper bias free by paying close attention to your research, language and construction and looking at the following aspects of your paper:
- Source material
- Opposing viewpoints
- Chosen language
- Pronoun usage
- Expressed thoughts
Objective writing tip #1: Evaluate your sources for bias
For any research paper, you want reliable, credible sources. Every source should be evaluated during the research process to maintain objective writing. Sticking with scholarly journal articles and publications is one way to avoid bias. A second is to seek websites that have “.edu,” “.gov” or “.org” domain extensions. Not every site, article or book presents information free of bias. In addition, some sources have hidden agendas. Because of this, always evaluate your sources.
Objective writing tip #2: Balance your position with the opposing view(s)
A good research paper is balanced with every side or argument of a topic. Objective writing means including arguments that take a different position and explaining those opposing viewpoints thoroughly within the body of your paper. You can refute opposing views with supporting evidence that logically shows why your unbiased argument is a stronger one. In addition, include reliable details and evidence that is supportive of your assertions and thesis statement.
Objective writing tip #3: Use objective language
Objective writing is about always presenting information fairly and credibly to allow someone to draw conclusions. Avoid subjective language whenever possible to increase the credibility and objectivity of your words. For example, avoid using any language that is construed as a value judgment, such as “wonderful,” “awesome” or “sarcastically.” Similarly, avoid overly emotional phrasing and any adjectives or adverbs that exaggerate. For example, avoid using “very” or “really” to emphasize a point. Also reword any language that singles out a specific group of people in a negative light.
Objective writing tip #4: Avoid first-person and second-person pronouns
While taking one side of an issue over another is clearly based on your opinion, you can make objective writing a reality by avoiding first-person and second-person pronouns. The fact that the paper is yours makes it clear that the ideas, thoughts and conclusions that are not cited are your own. Unless you are conducting primary research and discussing it, write in the third person using third-person pronouns when applicable. Otherwise, personal comments, such as “I think” or “my opinion is” come across more as a biased opinion rather than a logical argument with supporting evidence.
Objective writing tip #5: Express your thoughts explicitly
Objective writing is also achieved through expressing your thoughts explicitly. The more specific you are with certain pieces of information, the stronger your argument and the stronger the supporting evidence. For example, instead of writing “most of the world,” write “82 percent of the world’s population.” Specifics help keep your writing objective and your argument credible.
Keeping your writing objective is essential to writing an effective, credible and well-presented research paper. By following these tips to keep your writing bias free and working through the research process and the writing process, you can achieve objective writing that keeps your argument and supporting evidence as the main factors that help your readers draw conclusions.
Being objective suggests that you are concerned about facts and are not influenced as much by personal feelings or biases.
Part of being objective is being fair in your work. Try to show both sides of an argument if you can and avoid making value judgements through your use of words such as “wonderful” or “sarcastically”. Being objective also makes your work more professional and believable.
Techniques to make your writing more objective
- Be explicit in expressing your ideas.
For example, “ten” instead of “several”; “70%” instead of “most of the population”; “three years ago” or “in 2006” instead of “some time ago”.
- Avoid intensifiers which can tend to exaggerate your writing.
For example, “awfully”, “very”, “really”.
- Avoid language that implicitly excludes any group of people.
- Avoid the personal pronoun “I” but write more impersonally.
For example, “It could be argued that…” instead of “I think…”. Alternatively use citations to express your views, e.g. “Satherley (2007) believes that…”
Note: Despite the fact that you are not encouraged to use the personal pronoun “I” in academic writing, your viewpoints and opinions will still come through.
Although they may not be specifically attributed to you, the fact that the comments you choose to make are a part of your assignment tells the reader that you believe what you are writing.
Stating “I think…” or “In my opinion…” weakens the text and the strength of your argument. In addition, adding such personal comments almost seems to emphasise that the writing is just your opinions or interpretations, rather than positions that are supported by logic and the evidence.
However, some lecturers and some styles of academic writing (e.g. reflective writing) allow or encourage the use of the personal pronoun. See 1st person vs. 3rd person for details.
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Last updated on 25 October, 2012