Spring 2009 Survey: Information and Communication Technology
General Purpose | Major Findings | Interview Schedule

General Introduction
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General Purpose, Questions, and Sample

Scott Campbell and Yong Jin Park (2008) maintain that we are entering a new age of communication technology.  Previously the development of print created the visual age; radio, film, and television moved society into the mass age; and computers and the Internet brought about the network age.  Now we are shifting to an age of personal communication in which “space and time are personalized through mobile communication.”  What Campbell and Park see as distinctive about mobile telephones in particular is that they give rise to personalization in terms of “how [the technology] looks, sounds, and operates,” “what it means to the user,” and how it “fosters selectivity of network ties and cohesion within groups.”

From this perspective, a study of information and communication technology (ICT) use among college students is a particularly important topic.  This group is more likely to use ICTs than any other age group; for example, recent surveys indicate that nearly 100 percent of persons aged 18-24 in the U.S. had used a mobile telephone.  This age group also is more likely to use this technology for the purpose of interacting and coordinating activities with family and friends (Ling, 2004).

The primary goal of the spring 2009 HCSS was to document how Holy Cross students use ICTs and how this use is related to their creation and maintenance of social ties. ICTs refer to a wide range of technologies, including television, the Internet, cellular phones, MP3 players, and various other devices and applications. In this survey, we focused on two ICTs: cell phones and Facebook. We asked students, for example, the purposes for which they use their cell phones and with whom they communicate, and why and how they use the social networking site Facebook.com.  More specifically, the survey asked students about the following:

  1. At what age and for what purpose they first used the Internet and how many hours a day they currently use it.
  2. Use of Facebook, including the content of their Facebook profile, privacy settings, purposes of use, and opinions about Facebook.
  3. Cell phone use, including frequency and purposes.
  4. The media students choose to socialize and communicate with friends and family.
  5. Their social capital—that is, the resources available through social ties within the college.

Some basic questions about ICT use were drawn from the Current Population Survey and from surveys sponsored by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  Several questions about Facebook were adapted from a Michigan State University survey of student use of social networking conducted by Nicole Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff Lampe (2007).

In spring 2009, the HCSS was part of a larger project in which core items were included in random sample surveys conducted at two other colleges: Bowdoin and Pomona. Therefore, unlike previous summaries of findings on this Web site, we present results from the three-college survey and make note of differences between Holy Cross and the other two colleges.  All three campus surveys were carried out during March and early April; at Holy Cross, all interviews took place between March 10 and April 5.  The target population and sampling frame consisted of students enrolled and on campus, thereby excluding those who were studying away or abroad or who had taken a leave of absence.  At Holy Cross, this amounted to 2,654 students, from whom we randomly selected a sample of 140.  A total of 109 interviews were completed, yielding a response rate of 78 percent.  Overall, the response rate for the three colleges was 77 percent and total sample size was 452.

Table 10.1 breaks down the sample by various demographic characteristics. Of the 452 respondents, 53.1 percent were female, 73.0 percent were white, 98.4 percent ranged in age from 18 to 22 years old, 31.4 percent identified themselves as Catholic, 20.6 percent were Protestant, 29.0 percent had no religious preference, and 19.0 percent had some other religious preference.  By academic class, 31.0 percent were first-year students, 28.5 percent second-year, 19.2 percent third-year, and 21.2 percent fourth-year.  As the table shows, Holy Cross is less diverse ethnically and religiously than the sample as a whole.

Table 10.1.  Sample characteristics for the combined sample (N=452) and Holy Cross (N=109).

Holy Cross

Gender                                     Male






Race/Ethnicity                       White



African American



Asian American



Latin American



Religion                              Catholic












Academic class                 First-year












The estimated margin of random sampling error for the three-college survey is about 4.5 percent, which means, for example, that if a reported percentage is 45, the percentage for all students at the three colleges is very likely (95 chances in 100) to fall between 40.5 and 49.5.  (Based on a much smaller sample of 109, the margin of error for estimating characteristics of all Holy Cross students is around 9 percent.) This estimate does not include error that may occur when respondents misinterpret questions, don’t remember correctly, or answer untruthfully (measurement error).  Nor does it include error due to nonresponse—differences between sampled individuals who participated in the survey and those who did not participate (unit nonresponse) or between those who responded to a question and those who chose not to answer (item nonresponse).

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