Avoiding the perils of misinformation

How do we equip ourselves, and our students, to evaluate what is true, factual and relevant in a digital landscape which keeps throwing land bombs at us?


In January The Conversation published a piece on “The challenge facing libraries in an era of fake news”.  The author points to predatory and fake journals, researchers faking results and fraudulent peer review as some of the validation challenges we all face. He also acknowledges that context plays a part in this. There are no more absolutes in the sphere of ‘authority’.

Researchers at Stanford University also recently determined that students can be easily duped by online information, despite being digital natives. The rampant spread of so called fake news suggests that the same could be true of the rest of the population.

Helping students become smarter evaluators of the information that floods into their lives has become increasingly necessary in an era in which fake news is a constant.
Jerry Large, The Seattle Times.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published the article “Google the Misinformed” and stated that “unlike public institutions (like the library), Google and Facebook have no transparent curation process by which the public can judge the credibility or legitimacy of the information they propagate.”

So let’s look at how we can be more reliably informed in a University context, and consider the approach from both a teaching and researcher standpoint.

How do you help yourself?

  • Be aware that any letter inviting you to publish for a fee should be reviewed carefully. Be familiar with our strategic publishing policies at Macquarie.
  • Read the library guide on Evaluating Journals
  • Seek advice from your Research Librarian
  • Understand the basics of copyright and how it applies to research material.
  • Get a diversity of opinions. Be careful trusting your Facebook feed. Reference scholarly sites, such as The Conversation. Did you know that The Conversation’s fact check unit has just been accredited by the Poynter Institute in the US? The only other body accredited in this valuable system is The Washington Post.

How do you help your students?

  • Reference the Critical Analysis of Information link the library has provided. This will help make it an automatic process for them.
  • Consider embedding the Library module InfoWise into your iLearn unit. This helps students to develop a rigorous process for searching and locating the right information.
  • Point them to StudyWISE which is under ‘student support’ on iLearn. The ‘Academic Culture’ and ‘Thinking Critically’ link highlight the importance of reading widely and evaluating.



2 thoughts on “Avoiding the perils of misinformation”

  1. Thanks Alana, a very useful and concise description of how to determine between the truth and avoid the perils of fake news these days!

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