How college students use the Web to conduct everyday life research


  • Alison J Head Research Scientist, University of Washington, Information School
  • Michael B. Eisenberg



college students, information-seeking behavior, everyday life research, information literacy, born digital


This paper reports on college students’ everyday life information-seeking behavior and is based on findings from 8,353 survey respondents on 25 U.S. college campuses. A large majority of respondents had looked for news and, to a slightly lesser extent, decision-making information about purchases and health and wellness within the previous six months. Almost all the respondents used search engines, though students planning to purchase something were more likely to use search engines, and those looking for spiritual information were least likely to use search engines. Despite the widespread use of search engines, the process of filtering relevant from non-relevant search results was reportedly the most difficult part of everyday life research. As a whole, these students used a hybrid information-seeking strategy for meeting their everyday life information needs, turning to search engines and Wikipedia almost as much as they did to friends and family. A preliminary theory is introduced that describes the relationship between students’ evaluation practices and their risk-associated searches.

Author Biography

Alison J Head, Research Scientist, University of Washington, Information School

Alison J. Head, Ph.D. and Michael B. Eisenberg, Ph.D. are the Co-Principal Investigators and Co-Directors of Project Information Literacy, which is based in the Information School at the University of Washington. Head is the Lead Researcher for PIL and she is a Research Scientist in the Information School. Eisenberg is Dean Emeritus and Professor in the Information School.




How to Cite

Head, A. J., & Eisenberg, M. B. (2011). How college students use the Web to conduct everyday life research. First Monday, 16(4).