Undergraduate student Vivian Truong reveals how moral panics around COVID-19 emerged in the United Kingdom



After spending a few years traveling, Vivian Troung’s interest in sociology emerged from wanting to understand the cultures I engaged within a more systematic way. Throughout her undergraduate journey, the areas of sociology she had grown fond of were health/healthcare, economy and society, and globalization. Following graduation, she looks forward to entering a career in corporate law focusing on a firm’s diversity/inclusion and pro-bono programs.  

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UBC Sociology undergraduate student Vivian Truong

What was your project about? What are the main take-aways from your work?

My project is about how ‘moral panics’ were present in British newspapers during the eleven days prior to the W.H.O. declaring Covid-19 a pandemic. The main takeaway from my work was that the source of ‘moral panic’ stemmed from the UK government’s handling of Covid-19. This was largely due to the UK government choosing to take a ‘business as usual’ approach to disease containment rather than locking down cities (which was done in other countries).  

What inspired you? How did you get interested in this topic?

I was living in Edinburgh, UK when Covid-19 was happening. I remember every single day, my friends would come to me telling me drastically different and quite radical stories about Covid-19. I would ask where they heard these stories from, and they would always cite the news. It was really then that I was inspired to analyze the content of newspapers because I saw just how much it impacted social perspectives. 

What was the most difficult part of this learning journey? What was most satisfying?

The most difficult part of this whole learning journey was dealing with perfectionism. In my head I was like “yeah, I’m just going sit down, write for one day & BAM my paper is going to be amazing and flawless and perfect”. This expectation made me very resistant to even thinking about my paper because I knew I could not get it done in such an unrealistic way.  However, having moved past that initial period of perfection paralysis, the most satisfying part of writing my honours thesis was knowing the project was all mine to craft. I really enjoyed writing about something I was very passionate about & it is really exciting being a part of the larger conversation on Covid-19.

What skills did you develop or strengthen as a result of this project?

Definitely confidence in what I want to do & what I have to say. I am someone who micro-analyzes and crafts rigidly to rubrics and criteria sheets as a means of validating my work. However, with a thesis, there’s no rigid guide or rubric, which is great but also challenging for someone who lives by those tools. Therefore, when I started creating something from scratch, it pushed me to cultivate a sense of confidence in my work outside of pre-set rules.

What assistance did your supervisor provide to help you succeed with this project?

My supervisor is awesome! Beyond offering great feedback, answering all my questions, putting forth ideas, my supervisor also helped reassure me throughout the journey. This was especially true when I was dealing with perfectionism paralysis and she said no one gets it in one shot, you just have to sit down and write many drafts. 

What advice would you give to students who are interested in a similar project (e.g. directed studies, honours thesis, quantitative or qualitative research)?

If you were interested in writing an honours thesis I would recommend picking a topic you are passionate about. Writing an honours thesis is a journey with its ups and downs. Sometimes, when you experience the lows, writing about something you are passionate about gets you back into the groove of things and inspires you to continue giving it your all. P.s. don’t forget to have fun!