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COVID-19: Avoiding Misinformation and Conducting Credible Research

This guide intends to offer a bit of guidance on where to look for credible information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how to avoid misinformation where possible.

Facts are Facts, Words and Intent Matter

Each year, the Oxford Dictionaries select and announce their "Word of the Year". In 2016, they announced the year's word in November, which you can view in the Oxford English Dictionary (O.E.D.) via accessing Salmon Library here:

"Post-truth (adj.): Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

A pandemic like the COVID-19 crisis evokes responses in the form of public opinions and anxieties, scholarly analysis, raw data, and just about any way information can be produced. As you filter through these disparate voices and platforms, take note of what is being said and how that content is being delivered. Be especially mindful when evaluating resources claiming to present information projecting the impact of COVID-19, as well as the causes of the pandemic. Fact check the article, website, or data set by looking for the methodologies used to come to those conclusions. An author of such content should be transparent as to how the data and conclusions were gathered and deduced. Look for the citations or references area of the source in question; however, verifying the "data" itself is not enough. Carefully evaluate the statements made in the presentation of metrics or terminologies, and verify that any correlations and causes being deduced from the data hold up to scientific scrutiny. 

Pay attention to news outlets, organizations, and even periodicals that seem to marginalize or minimize scientific consensus and authority in favor of popular opinion when not in alignment. Do the headlines or article titles seem to use hurtful or culturally insensitive phrases to incite an emotion, or does the content within that piece trust in the scientifically verifiable data within to withstand public scrutiny? Facts are verifiable information, and there certainly is room to debate the application of statistics and projected data in certain circumstances; however, there is no room for politically motivated rhetoric or attempts to present information as alternative fact; that is simply called "fiction," and research during this pandemic demands objective research if we are to engage in productive, purposeful, and respectful academic conversation.