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Ask Mayo Clinic

Ask Mayo Clinic Health System: FInding reputable COVID studies

From the COLLECTION: Ask Mayo Q&A on COVID-19, vaccine series
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Q: So many studies are have been published regarding COVID-19. How can people determine which studies are accurate?

A: “There is more information on the internet than anyone can digest,” says Melanie Swift, M.D., a preventive medicine physician at Mayo Clinic. “It can be difficult to know what to believe. Depending on who is running the website or sharing their interpretation of the medical studies, it may be reliable. But it might be a misinterpretation of the data or completely falsified information.”

Here are some tips:

  • Studies that are indexed in PubMed have been published in reputable journals, and these studies have undergone scientific peer review and are reputable.
  • Studies that can be found by searching Google Scholar may have undergone peer review, as well, but they might be a “preprint” that has not yet undergone peer review or been accepted by a reputable scientific journal. Preprints are labeled as such, and they should be interpreted with caution.
  • Use trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the National Academy for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is a branch of the National Institutes of Health. Note that these government website addresses end in “.gov.” Also, check out Mayo Clinic’s website and the websites for other academic medical centers, as well as websites for medical professional societies such as the American Medical Association or the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Beware of:

  • Websites that feature medical experts who are not trained in a relevant specialty, or endorsed by a reputable medical center or legitimate medical society. “Infectious diseases or pulmonary and critical care medicine specialists are ideal sources for COVID-19 information. If the website or organization features just one or two doctors from unrelated specialties, be skeptical,” says Dr. Swift.
  • Social media postings from people sharing opinion, anecdotes or their interpretation of medical studies. “People will commonly state they have done their own “research,” but this may mean they only searched for studies that support their bias. These people may not have the expertise to judge the validity of a medical study, and they may be justifying their personal beliefs or promoting a political agenda,” Dr. Swift adds.
  • Claims for alternative or miracle drugs that sound unrealistic, without studies published in reputable medical journals. When highly effective treatments are confirmed through valid scientific studies, they are publicized by the CDC, medical centers, medical societies and reliable media outlets.

“The National Library of Medicine provides a helpful tutorial on how to evaluate a health-related website while the surgeon general recommends a quick health misinformation checklist,” says Dr. Swift.

Some of the tips they offer include:

  • Did you check with the CDC or local public health department to see whether any information is available about the claim being made?
  • Did you ask credible health care professionals, such as your health care provider or a nurse, to see if they have any additional information?
  • Did you type the claim into a search engine to see if it has been verified by a credible source?
  • Did you look at the “About Us” page on the website to see if you can trust the source?
  • If you’re not sure, don’t share.

Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive highest-quality physical and virtual health care close to home.

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Emily Pyrek can be reached at


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