Sources and Data
This report is based on the findings of a survey given to college students at two-year and four-year public and private colleges and universities in the continental United States. Paper surveys were randomly distributed at a wide range of higher education institutions by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago between March 2002 and June 2002 and between August 2002 and October 2002. Conducting a survey in this manner allowed researchers to guarantee that participants would remain anonymous as the surveys asked questions regarding students’ feelings and attitudes about certain aspects of Internet usage as well as other information that might be considered personal or sensitive. Paper surveys also made it possible for researchers to reach college students in a manner that telephone surveying would not have allowed.
Surveys were distributed to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in degree-seeking programs at 27 institutions of higher education across the United States. The sample was intended to produce results that would correspond to the demographics for college students reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual almanac issue. The sample was tested against known population parameters (gender, race, age) and found to be reflective of the national population of college students as reported by The Chronicle. Each student was asked to fill out either a survey about his/her academic uses of the Internet or his/her social uses of the Internet. In all, 1162 surveys were returned between March 2002 and June 2002, and September 2002 and October 2002. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys may introduce some error or bias into the findings.
Ethnographic data was collected by a team of graduate student researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The researchers were recruited to observe the behaviors of college students at numerous Chicago area institutions of higher education. The researchers were trained in ethnographic methods of observation and data collecting, and rotated the times of the day and days of the week they spent in various public settings where college students could be found using the Internet. Observations took place between March 2002 and June 2002.
Additional material is based on the findings of a survey of Americans about their use of the Internet. These results are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates in 2001, among a sample of 16,125 Internet users, 18 and older, who have broadband Internet access. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 2 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting telephone surveys may introduce some error or bias into the findings of opinion polls. At least 10 attempts were made to complete an interview at every household in the sample. The calls were staggered over times of day and days of the week to maximize the chances of making contact with a potential respondent. Interview refusals were re-contacted at least once in order to try again to complete an interview.