How to find reliable information about COVID-19

With the growth of social media and instant communication, online discussions about health and vaccinations have become ubiquitous. Despite greater access to health information, and efforts by public health officials to be transparent, there can be mistrust about the authenticity of scientific advice. 

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in misinformation shared online. This has lead to an unwillingness by some to co-operate in public health measures, and fuelled mistrust towards governments and public health officials.

Sometimes, fake news is relatively harmless. In this case, the sharing of fake news is concerning as it may alter people’s behaviour and could result in prolonging the impact of the virus. What can you do to avoid perpetuating fake news?

What can you do?

  • Find evidence that has been scientifically validated. Search a healthcare database rather than a generic search engine such as Google. All Oxford Brookes students and staff have access to these health databases.

  • Use authoritative sources, like the NHS website, or other organisations or charities that have a good reputation. If you’re not sure about an organisation, look for an ‘about’ or ‘about us’ link on their website to learn more.

  • Compare and critique various news sources. Do they report similar findings? Where have they got their information from?

  • Headlines can be designed to cause outrage in order to generate clicks and advertising revenue. Consider who is publishing a particular story and what their aims could be? Does the content of the story match the hype of the headline?

  • Be cautious when reading opinion-based and anecdotal evidence. Always check that what is written is supported by factual evidence.
This video from the BBC explains how opinions and anecodotal information can spread rapidly on WhatsApp

Other ways to improve your skills

We encourage all students to complete the Digital Capabilities course on Moodle. You can work through it at your own pace. It will introduce you to digital tools to save you time and improve your work.

All courses at Oxford Brookes are supported by specialist Academic Liaison Librarians. They can help you develop your skills in identifying reliable information.

Explore the course resource page created by the Academic Liaision Librarians for Health and Social Work. Here you can find links to further trusted sources of health information. 

We’re writing a series of blog posts encouraging you to ask questions about what you read. If you’ve found this one useful, do have a look at the others in the series.

— Aaron Worsley — Academic Liaison Librarian

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