Bias? What bias?

I’ve done some of the assignments out of order (in ED603).
This is another one of those assignments I liked so much I wrote it twice.


This paper discusses addressing several forms of bias while conducting research. Researchers need to be aware of, and counteract the possible introduction of, bias in areas of their research including conducting their literature review; performing their study; working with, evaluating, and listening to their research subjects; analyzing their data and writing their report. As a student new to research I will look for ways to identify possible bias within my own approach to the research removing as much as I can while clearly indicating my point of view in the concluding comments.

Literature review. While reading assigned articles and preparing two article review papers, I collected thoughts about bias. It became clear–as I refined my article review and removed extraneous language–I am biased against articles and research with small study groups. I need to be diligent with word choice in any write up regardless of the audience. Being concise in my writing may also help.

When I saw an article I perceived as too long–where the authors used ten words when two would do–I chose not to read it. I felt I did not have the patience or the time to wade through the extraneous language. This is short-sighted; I need to read many articles for my project, even those torturous to get through.

I don’t think I hold bias toward language barrier, stilted English or unfamiliar sentence structure; however, during the article review when I encountered these things I periodically paused to make notes in the margin. This provides a lens of insight: I need to be aware of, and not reflect poorly upon, an entry from a participant because of poor or unclear writing.

Performing research. It is possible for bias to be introduced to the study at a base level during the research because the investigators role differs regardless of the quantitative or qualitative approach. In the former, “the investigator is in the background narrating the study” while in qualitative the “researchers is typically present and in the foreground in the narrative report.” (Creswell, 2012, p. 280) If the researchers are from two different cultures doing qualitative research their approach to the participants must be carefully attended to, etc. If it’s qualitative not only must they understand the others’ worldview, but they need to use agreed upon language universally understood by the intended audience.

I am performing the work alone, with the guidance of a select group. Worldviews do not clash. However, I intend to use a blended approach; my research role will change during the process. That means I could introduce bias in yet another way.

Researcher bias. The pre and post survey, and the discussion board prompts designed to get student interacting with each other while learning some basic skills, would be offered to the full number of participants loaded into the fall 2014 Blackboard shell: “UAF eCampus BLACKBOARD ORIENTATION.” I hope to avoid selection bias because nonprobability sampling is the avenue primarily available. It is similar to convenience sampling, but the audience I’m looking at is available, and they will self-select. (p. 145) I am not introducing bias by selecting those students from a particular community, or only those students who are in the developmental classes, to participate.

After the students take the introductory survey they would receive an invitation to participate in a specific series of Blackboard Discussion threads. These threads walk them through tasks that are designed to be fun, assist the student in building connections to other new online students, and practice essential tasks like creating links, uploading images, and attaching files. All students who take the survey will be invited to participate, and the module will be open to all students who have access to the orientation shell.

Furthermore, the use of Likert-scale and closed-ended questions for the majority of both surveys, should also limit the introduction of bias via word-choice.

Observer bias. The way I will collect data for this project also serves to limit the opportunity for observer bias. Use of surveys and automated reports indicating discussion board use, instead of observing a student’s behavior in person, should minimize bias.

The first survey is primarily closed ended questions. The numbers captured on student participation in discussion boards come from a series of reports. The post survey is both closed and open-ended questions.

In the post survey I will use closed ended questions to ask whether the student took the pre survey and whether they participated in the discussion threads. I will prepare a few Likert-scale questions regarding their experience. The qualitative portion of the survey will seek to unearth attitudinal measures. Did they create one or more connections to other students whether in their field? How does the student feel their participation impacted their Blackboard experience? I will write my own questions versus using an existing instrument. (p. 152) My goal is to keep the survey as short as possible.

Data analysis. The information I’ve read on descriptive statistics makes sense to me. The research articles that were the easiest for me to read and understand the researchers included visual representations, charts, Venn diagrams, simple tables. I’d like to copy their approach. I believe visuals may also reduce the opportunity for me to inadvertently bias the reader.

Reporting and reflection. The fact that I am a student taking courses via elearning, an instructor who teaches via distance, and an employee of the UAF eCampus department needs to be addressed carefully when I write up my report. During analysis I may focus more tightly upon one area because of my worldview. A researcher, in a good ethnography, “portrays the researchers as reflecting on their own role in the study and how their background, gender, and history shape the account that they report.” (p. 480) During reporting I will specify how I view the results “As an instructional designer; as an instructor; as a student …”

Summary. In these ways I hope to address bias as clearly as I can.


Brayboy, B. M., & Deyhle, D. (2000). Insider-outsider: Researchers in American Indian communities. Theory Into Practice, 39, 163-169.

Creswell, J.W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston: Pearson Education.

Cochran, P. L., Marshall, C. A., Garcia-Downing, C., Kendall, E., Cook, D., McCubbin, L., & Cover, R. S. (2008). Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Implications for Participatory Research and Community. American Journal of Public Health, 98(1), 22-27. Mahoney, J. (2001).