Study Design

            As stated before, multi-method analysis is vital to my study.  The variables and concepts I would like to cover in my first phase, those of quantitative analysis, provide the basis that informs my qualitative research.  Since Facebook is still a new landscape of study, I intend to collect usage and participation statistics to gauge respondent involvement in the system.  Connecting participation (frequency, intensity, and type) allows for development of user profiles that may help track patterns and trends.  Further, I plan to study respondent counts and perceptions of Facebook “friends” as well as how the system may affect the ways they meet and form relationships with others.  Almost as a formality and acknowledgement to the massive piles of information on Facebook’s transformations to privacy and safety I conspire to see how these variables might play into the system as well.  Lastly I would like to delve into race and Facebook by asking more detailed questions about the Chief scenarios described previously as well as to assess the importance of visual elements on Facebook by asking about pictures.  To conclude the series I of course will collect demographic information including academic status, membership in Greek organizations, gender, sexual identification, and race and ethnicity.
            The second phase of the project is uncertain at this time. I would like to establish what questions and topics to explore after I possess quantitative data as well as more experience reading literature and theory related to Facebook.  Gathering information on the substantive impacts of social capital, internalized understandings of SNS, feelings on identity and representation, and behavior that relates to potential avenues for social change is best done with qualitative analysis.  I expect this will come in the form of a case study comprised of interviews and possibly focus groups with a non-random sample of participants gathered from multiple pools.  Subjects from the quantitative project will be invited to participate in the interview series, as will other individuals with pertinent experiences and contributions. 
            I fully expect to employ Facebook and friends to put together a desirable convenience snowball sample.  Non-users will also be questioned in this grouping.

Quantitative Methodology

            The quantitative phase of my project consists of a moderate length internet survey filled with salient but easy to answer questions.  Developing this survey was relatively low cost, as it was required I build it with the University of Illinois Survey Builder1 which is provided for free student, staff and faculty usage.  The distribution time is set to be the period of a few weeks as the survey will be released to the student population via Email just after graduation during the beginning of the summer.  I will leave the survey open until around the time grades are released as this is the time when students most likely to go online and check their email.


            My sample consists of a randomly selected portion of the undergraduate student population at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  All respondents will be full-time degree-seeking students over the age of 18.  I made the decision to exclude part-time and non-degree seeking students because they are statistically more likely to be of a significantly older age and only comprise a minimal population at UIUC.  I could not include students under the age of 18 for ethical reasons.  In total the official university statistics department, the Division of Management Information2, will pull an 1100 person sample randomly from the entire undergraduate student population.  This sample is based on an estimated total student population of 30,000 with a confidence level of 95% and with an expected confidence interval of +/- 3% with a little room for overhead.  This method of sampling should prevent most issues of bias and in conjunction with the summer release time result in a good response rate.

Survey Structure and Order

            Intelligent and strategic survey design is crucial to success in quantitative research and as a result I’ve placed a great deal of consideration into the architecture of my survey and effective question construction.  All questions of course follow uniform response sets and allow for answers in a spectrum as necessary.  Nearly all of the questions easy to understand short, one part inquires and that have been logically ordered within each section.  One of the benefits of an internet survey is increased authentic response to sensitive questions and though my survey includes a few of these, I expect they will receive a good response.  The only potential draw-back of the survey was the sheer length – in order to cover as many topics as I do the survey extends several pages.  Students may become disheartened and discontinue interest if they suffer from a short attention span.  To counteract this, I’ve attempted to adjust my survey ordering to hold interest.
            I open up the survey asking students about their participation and typical usages of Facebook in order to help get them thinking about the service and their involvement in a fairly neutral way.  The next section inquires about friends – many students are concerned about how many friends people have on Facebook and how they meet them and this will help grab immediate attention.  This inquiry set progresses into a few short questions about meeting people and relationships.  The following page is safety – I didn’t want students thinking about their safety before answering how they meet people via Facebook as it could bias their answers.  The safety section does lead into opinions on Chief Illiniwek, however, a conscious decision to inspire students to think about the campus environment before thinking about the Chief.  I then inquire about privacy habits in a large question series that may be skipped if students don’t modify their privacy settings.  The last section is on pictures – I wasn’t interested in students thinking about their display of themselves and representation before the privacy section.  I conclude with demographics so that respondents are not thinking about their social identities while taking the survey.

Proposed Data Analysis

            At this time I do not know exactly how I will analyze the data gathered from the survey.  Obviously I will need to reduce and compress the data by dealing with errata, develop methods of coding, and enter it into SPSS for analysis.  I fully expect to quickly run descriptives and frequencies immediately after, as well as crosstabs summarizing variable associations shortly after I acquire my initial numbers.  Advanced statistical analysis, however, will require considerably more planning and design.  I will need to identify and isolate specific variables and probably conduct a great deal of scrutiny between intersecting variables.  This will involve multiple regression analysis and consultation with statistics experts in my department.

[1]See  for details; DMI requires use of this tool.

[2] See for more details.