CEC Theses and Dissertations


Determining the Effectiveness of College Students in Searching the Internet

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Donald E. Riggs

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

John A. Scigliano


The Internet represents a preferred tool of college students in searching for information. Yet, many college students do not search the Internet effectively. The goal established for this study was to investigate the existing abilities of college students to search the Internet, and to explore the reasons behind the inability of those students who cannot search the Internet effectively. The problem investigated in this study was the lack of a valid and reliable way to determine the effectiveness of students in searching the Internet, generally, and the effectiveness of the Palm Beach Community College's West Campus (PBCCWC) students, specifically. This researcher hypothesized that (1) utilizing evaluative criteria to classify students as effective am! In effective Internet searchers, researchers cannot predict students' classifications based on their demographic characteristics, (2) the overall responses of effective students to a questionnaire related to searching the Internet will differ from those of ineffective students, and (3) the inability to search the Internet effectively is attributable to the student more than any other factor.

This study can be characterized as quantitative-qualitative, and be categorized as a descriptive-phenomenological study. The methodology included creating an Internet Search Test (IST) as an evaluative instrument to differentiate between the PBCCWC students who can and cannot search the Internet effectively. It also included a self-administered questionnaire to explore the reasons behind the inability of students who cannot search the Internet effectively. Applying the purposive sampling method, this study represented 20% of PBCCWC's total population through the college's core requisite courses.

The results of data analysis revealed that the variance in effectiveness of Internet search can be accounted for by knowing students' demographic characteristics. This study also found that the perspectives of effective students were not different, to a great extent, from those of ineffective students. The results revealed a high chance that the inability to search the Internet effectively was attributable to students themselves more than institutional factors or any other party or object. However, some additional factors may impact the abilities of students when searching the Internet such as: the design of the interface, or the use of search engines.

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