How to Avoid Bias in Academic Writing

Academic writing shouldn’t be biased. Your writing may be biased if you choose language that is not sensitive to labels or not specific enough. The issue of bias is addressed in the APA Manual (Section 3). Experts from Writers house created this list of simple rules to help you improve your academic writing, avoiding bias.

1. Use the third person pronounce

Sometimes, writers use plural forms of the first person (us, we, our). In this case, they assume that their readers agree with the writer’s viewpoint or have the same experience, which is not the best solution. For example, we recommend that you write “Researchers found…” instead of “We found…”

2. Choose the right words when making comparisons

You may want to compare two ideas, companies, people, or groups of people. In this case, you should make sure that your writing doesn’t reflect your personal opinion or feelings. For example, you shouldn’t use the word “bad,” as well as “normal” because this word will suggest that other things are not normal. Instead of writing that one idea, company, or person is better than another one, just explain its benefits and note that they are absent in the second option.

3. Be specific when describing people

Sometimes, you may need to describe people in academic writing. You should be as specific as possible to avoid bias. For example, you must specify the age of a person instead of referring to them as “senior” or “elderly.” You should also specify their ethnicity instead of using such terms as “Asian” or “Middle Eastern.”

4. Refer to people first

Some writers often use adjectives instead of nouns. An example of such a mistake is the phrase “a disabled person.” Such phrases sound offensive because you reduce the person to their one trait. Always use descriptors after nouns. For example, you should write “a person with a disability.” Phrases like “special education students” can be easily replaced with “students in a special education program.”

5. Use gender-neutral language

There are many words and phrases based on the word “man,” such as “mankind,” “chairman,” “man a project,” or “manpower.” To avoid sexist language, use alternative words: “people,” “board member,” “staff a project,” “workforce,” etc.

6. Avoid gender assumptions

Writers often use the words “he” or “she” when referring to groups of people or unnamed people. For example, a writer may refer to a professor as “she” without knowing the actual gender of the professor. We recommend that you write “he or she” or “they” to avoid such gender assumptions.

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