(Michael Lorenzen at the Great Wall of China in July 2007)
I have returned from China and my study of the information literacy habits of Chinese students is complete. My jet lag is bad but I am starting to feel better!
I interviewed many students at the North China University of Technology based on my research proposal. I found both positive and negative aspects of research in the population I studied.
Looking at the data from my notes, here is what I believe is the major finding of this study:
How do you know if the information on a web site is good?
When asked this question, the vast majority of students responded by saying that if a site was popular, it was a valid source of information. I was repeatedly told that if a site had lots of comments on it from readers and if the site was well known, it was a good source of information. Further, I was told that sites with few or no comments that they had never heard of were bad sources of information.
Based on this, I have to conclude that if you want Chinese students to take you seriously, you had better advertise your site aggressively, use every search engine optimization trick you know to up your search engine rankings, and contrive as many fake comments as you can until the Chinese students find your site and start commenting on their own. This behavior is different from American students I have interviewed in the past.
I still need to dig into my notes and the tape recordings of the interviews before I write my paper. However, this finding came through so strongly that I know it will be in the final paper. Is this research belief of the Chinese students a result of living in an authoritarian state where the news is dominated by one only allowed point of view which appears to be popular due to its uniqueness in the media?
I had a good trip. China is a great country and I am happy to have visited it. I hope to get this study published in the next year or so.