Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Bias refers to distortion, one-sidedness, partisanship or any other process of (systematic) misrepresentation.

explanatory context

Bias has several meanings. In general it refers to partisanship or distortion.


More specifically, in survey research bias is either (a) bias of the researcher or (b) statistical bias.


Bias of the researcher may be a conscious or unconscious effect. This can operate in the way in which, for example, the researcher frames particular questions in a questionnaire, leads respondents to provide particular answers, or interprets and codes their replies.


Statistical bias occurs when a sample fails to reflect accurately the characteristics of the population from which it is drawn owing to systematic effects of the sampling procedure. Bias, then, is different from sampling error, which is random and occurs normally as a result of random sampling procedures.


Bias unlike sampling error is difficult to estimate.

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also

sampling error

Researching the Real World Section 1.10.4


copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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