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ENGL 102 - Library Skills Objectives - Maple Woods


Students will recognize how algorithms impact what information they encounter online.

Algorithms: What's the Problem?

"a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end"

"The current term of choice for a problem-solving procedure, algorithm, is commonly used nowadays for the set of rules a machine (and especially a computer) follows to achieve a particular goal."

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.) Algorithm. In Retrieved March 28, 2022 from

Algorithms can be found behind all sorts of important decisions, like approving a loan or scanning through job applications. Unfortunately, they can intentionally or unintentionally replicate human bias.

Many algorithms are 'trained' on preexisting data. Let's say you want an algorithm to help you with hiring, so you feed it resumes of past employees. If your company has a history of hiring more men than women, the algorithm will detect that pattern and produce similar results.

Other algorithms may use destructive methods humans didn't intend. For example, social media sites want to keep users engaged, which can lead to inflammatory content or misinformation spreading when it attracts more clicks and comments.

For more information, see the links below:

Learn what you can about how an algorithm works. (Often this information will be limited.)

Limit what personal information search engines use when determining your results.

Be thoughtful.

  • Don't use social media as your only source of information.
  • Pay attention when the information you see appeals to your biases or is intentionally inflammatory.
  • Don't assume the first result you see is automatically the best result.