academic Web design, information seeking, doctoral students, graduate students, Web seeking or searching patterns


This dissertation looks at the information-seeking practices of doctoral students in the context of their search for a doctoral program and considers the implications for design of the graduate school Web space. Of particular interest is the description of patterns of Web use and the practices related to students' preparation for interactions with technology, the nature of the interactions, and the thinking that occurs. An exploratory study that brings together hypertext theory, contextual, holistic approaches, and information behavior, this research includes a focus group of current undergraduate and graduate students to gather fresh details about information-seeking for a graduate program as a preliminary investigation in this area, eight interviews with current doctoral students admitted in Fall 2007 to capture the specific details of students' information-seeking experiences for a doctoral program by mapping the journeys, and an online survey of current doctoral students admitted in Fall 2007 as further investigation of information-seeking for a doctoral program. Doctoral students who participated in this study rely on the Web as the primary source of prior knowledge of graduate education and graduate school, as well as the source most used to build that knowledge during the information-seeking journey for a graduate program and to prepare them for the start of their graduate study. The eight maps of students' information-seeking journeys for a graduate program show how complex and wide-ranging these journeys are. Based on bits collected through their many Web encounters over six months to two years, students develop a 'feeling' for the people who make up the graduate program, social interactions within this group and research subgroups, and what it would be like to be a student in the program, all contributing to students' decision making. Academic Web sites play a key role as support structures for students and have to do more than make the information available and findable; they must design in order to encourage and sustain engagement, or deep involvement. This study proposes several suggestions for academic Web design.

Graduation Date



Applen, J. D.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program

Texts and Technology








Release Date


Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)