Consultant’s Corner, Vol. 33 Issue 6


Writing Support Studio

Dear Writing Support Studio,

I have been told that I struggle to omit biases from my work. I am the most familiar with persuasive writing, so I have difficulty completing research writing without it being tainted by the inclusion of opinions. Despite my efforts, I have been unable to eliminate subjectivity from my works. How can I avoid unknowingly conveying emotions when attempting to solely convey facts?
Thank you in advance,
A Conscious Student

A Conscious Student,

Congratulations on taking the first step towards muting potential biases in research oriented work. All are entitled to their own worldviews, but acknowledging that theseworldviews may be projected onto written pieces is crucial. Writers should allow research-based assignments to work on their worldviews and not vice versa. Yet, with some works, even this is a process wherein the results should manifest behind the scenes because an altered worldview still remains a worldview. When writing objectively, the writer’s primary task is presentation.As journalist Samuel G. Freedman said about those genres of writing, the task is to “shape realitywithout misshaping it.”
An objective display of reality begins with a diversification of references. The research that is shared in a paper without opinion should originate from a sample of sources that communicates as varied a degree of opinions as possible. In an objective research paper, it is the writer’s goal to present the totality of available information using a crop of sources that is representative of the whole. Another element of writing where biases tend to infect unargumentative genres is that of the language itself. For this reason, it can be risky to pick research topics one is already very passionate about. Common examples of less conspicuous offenders of the objective voice include generalizations, assumptions, and insensitive language. Bias itself entails a lack of sensitivity because it precludes the acknowledgement of other avenues of understanding. When it comes to generalizations, one must be careful when using the words “all” or “never,” unless that exclusivity is expressed by the source and pertains to only one case, study, or law.
Assumptions penetrate language and harm sensitivity in more subtle ways. So, in order to combat them, it is important to take precautions to use more specific (and less descriptive) language, as well as to use formal, professionally accepted, structurally uniform terms when describing the titles of groups. Still, the ability of a paper to convey reality can be marred by opinions in other ways as well. For example, missing evidence following statements can, on occasion, imply that the writer regards their own experience as sufficient evidence.
Sometimes, it will even be the writer’s inclination to state this belief more directly, but it is best to avoid doing so because it narrows the perspective of the paper to one. All have their biases, and working alongside others to bring them to light is one of the best ways to eliminate them fromobjective works.
Best Wishes,
The Writing Support Studio