Classifying and Coding Online Actions

Authors: Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Hargittai, E. (2004). Classifying and Coding Online Actions. Social Science Computer Review. 22(2), 210-227.


Research on how the Internet is diffusing across the population has broadened from questions about who uses the medium to what people do during their time online. With this change in focus comes a need for more detailed data on people’s online actions. In this paper, I provide a method for coding and classifying users’ online information-seeking behavior. I present an exhaustive list of ways in which a user may arrive at a Web page. The proposed methodology includes enough nuanced information to distinguish among different search actions and links. In its entirety, the coding scheme makes it possible to understand many details about the users’ sequence of actions simply by looking at the spreadsheet containing the information proposed in this paper. I also demonstrate the utility of this coding scheme with findings from a study on the online information-seeking behavior of 100 randomly selected Internet users to exemplify the utility of this coding and classification scheme.


  • Introduction
  • Research on Online Information Seeking
  • The Web Use Project
  • The Classification and Coding Scheme
  • Analyzing Users' Online Actions
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: Coding and Classification Scheme


I would like to thank Paul DiMaggio for helpful suggestions. I am also grateful to Inna Barmash and Susan Lutz for their assistance with coding. I also express my gratitude to the many people who took time from their busy schedules to participate in this study. Generous support from the Markle Foundation and NSF grant #IIS0086143 is kindly acknowledged. The project has also been supported in part by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation. I am also grateful to the Dan David Foundation for its support.

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