The social networks in the information horizons of college students: A pilot study



The information horizon is an imaginary field that users position their information sources according to their perceived importance (Sonnenwald, 1999), and social network is one of the critical concepts in information horizons. Steffes and Burgee (2008) pointed out that the stronger tie sources are more likely to be use as a preferred or primary information source. Previous research on graduate students' information horizons revealed various interpersonal channels in research contexts (Tsai, 2010). This study aims to examine undergraduates' social networks in their coursework related information horizons. A web survey with 18 responses and 3 brief follow-up interviews were conducted with an undergraduate class at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Preliminary results showed that undergraduate students tend to rely more on colleagues than on professors when facing coursework related issues. While stronger ties may be more frequently consulted for moral support, the tie strength may not necessarily determine the frequency of consultation on program, course, and resources. The context of the interpersonal connection may also play an important role. Overall, this study integrated two theories, information horizons and social network theory, and may contribute to the methodology of information horizon.