Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Where do millennials go for information?: the role of internet self-efficacy in information retrieva

Student Researcher(s)

Jenna Grzeslo (PhD Candidate); Na Sun (PhD Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor


The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to information communication technologies and those who do not. In many ways, this divide is diminishing in developed countries, such as the United States. As a result, the focus of research has shifted to the second level digital divide. The second level digital divide, which is a production gap between content producers and content consumers, is caused by gaps in online efficacy and online skills. As a complex construct, Internet efficacy has five components search self-efficacy, communication self-efficacy, differentiation self-efficacy, organization self-efficacy, and reactive/generative self-efficacy. These five components and their role in information retrieval are of interest to this study.


A general research question for this study states, “What role does Internet self-efficacy play in information seeking behavior?” In particular, we are interested in how Internet self-efficacy affects information seeking behaviors across distinct types of information channels and sources.

RQ: For undergraduate students at a division one research university, controlling for age, gender, and academic major, what is the relationship between one’s level of Internet self-efficacy and ones level of information seeking?
H1: Among college students, there is a direct relationship between level of Internet self-efficacy and level of information seeking.
H2: Power usage and Internet self-efficacy will be positively related.
H3: Greater levels of Internet use frequency will lead to greater levels of Internet self-efficacy.


Using a convenient sample of undergraduate students (n=161), we conducted a survey using Qualtrics Survey Software, which was distributed to participants via email.


All three hypotheses were supported, but our findings further unpacked the relationship between the five types of Internet self-efficacy and what information sources each one positively predicts. This study found that Google is the most frequently used information source for everyday life research while librarians are the least frequently used information source. The most statistically significant predictor of Google usage is search self-efficacy (b = 0.34, p<.0001). Individuals with higher levels of reactive/generative self-efficacy are more likely to use information sources such as librarians, library shelves, and instructors. Kim and Glassman (2013) hold that this is the most complex type of ISE because it involves information creation in addition to information gathering.


Our findings illustrate the relationship between reactive/generative self-efficacy and the use of more complex information sources. If we are to motivate information seekers to use these traditional and highly regarded information sources more frequently we need to strengthen their reactive/generative self-efficacy by encouraging them to become not only consumers but also prosumers of information. By closing the production gap between information producers and consumers, we will in part be bridging the second level digital divide.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

More Articles From: