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Researcher bias is a situation that occurs when a researcher’s point of view influences the results of a study. It can be developed during any stage of the research process, including the initial planning stage, theory development, data collection, and analysis.

Types of researcher biases

  1. Design and selection bias

Design and selection bias can occur in the early planning stage of the study. In this type of bias, the researcher selects data collection and sampling methods that remove key information.

  1. Procedural bias

Procedural bias can occur when various parameters of a process cause inaccuracies and omissions in study results. So, it typically involves the instruments a researcher uses or the time given to participants to complete a step.

  1. Confirmation bias

One of the most pervasive forms of research bias is confirmation bias. It occurs when the researcher forms a hypothesis and uses respondents’ information to confirm that belief. In this type of bias, researchers evaluate responses that confirm their hypotheses while rejecting evidence that does not support their hypothesis. Accordingly, confirmation bias can extend to analysis. So, researchers tend to recall points that confirm their hypothesis and points that refute other hypotheses. To minimize confirmation bias, researchers must continually reevaluate the impressions of respondents and challenge preexisting assumptions and hypotheses.

  1. Question-order bias

One question can influence answers to subsequent questions, creating question-order bias. Respondents are primed by the words and ideas presented in questions that impact their thoughts and attitudes on subsequent questions. For example, if a respondent rates one product a 10 and is then asked to rate a competitive product, they will make a rating that is relative to the 10 they just provided. While question-order bias is sometimes unavoidable, asking general questions before specific, unaided before aided, and positive before negative will minimize bias.

  1. Halo effect bias

The halo effect bias occurs when the researcher understands an answer as the interviewee’s overall view of a subject. For example, if a researcher recalls more information about the interviewee’s enthusiasm for a product, other parts of the response may be of less importance. Therefore, this may indicate a bias toward positive feedback in their interpretations. To avoid bias, you can make notes on the nuances of the interviewees’ answers and be aware of the halo effect bias during the process.

How to avoid researcher bias

  • Create a complete research program

 When planning a research study, be aware of the potential for bias in any part of the process. Evaluating interview questions with team members can be helpful, as different perspectives can help you determine an effective action. If you use the sampling method to find participants, consider using the appropriate parameters to reduce bias in your research.

  • Evaluate your hypothesis

To examine assumptions about your hypothesis by providing a testable assumption about the results of the study and determining the way you might show bias in your future analysis. Afterward, you can research to clarify any additional information you require.

  • Summarize the answers using the main context

To reduce the likelihood of cultural bias, be sure to express the respondents’ answers using your own words and phrases. If they use unfamiliar words to an unknown topic, it may be helpful to ask for an explanation or do more research before interpreting the data. It is important to ask respondents for more information about a topic as their response context may differ from your initial understanding.

Contact a professional audience or a colleague outside of a study. Then, ask them to review your research program and data to see if they can detect the possibility of bias. For instance, the outward perspective of an educated reader can help you to see the wider scope of your study, reinforce areas for improvement, and find patterns in the overall thought process. To give a peer or colleague a helpful framework for their feedback, you can also  provide a set of questions that target specific concerns or topics.


Start small. Think Big.

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