Hurdles to Information Seeking: Spelling and Typographical Mistakes During Users' Online Behavior

Authors: Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Hargittai, E. (2006.) Hurdles to Information Seeking: Explaining Spelling and Typographical Mistakes in Users' Online Search Behavior. Journal of the Association of Information Systems. January.


A refined approach to digital inequality requires that in addition to looking at differences in access statistics we also examine differences among Internet users. People encounter numerous hurdles during their online information-seeking behavior. In this paper, I focus on the likelihood of Internet users to make spelling or typographical mistakes during their online activities. Information seeking on the Web often requires users to type text into forms. Users sometimes make mistakes, which can have hindering effects on their browsing efficiency because they may get derailed to irrelevant sources or encounter errors. I draw on data collected from in-person observations with a diverse sample of one hundred Internet users to see what explains users’ tendency to make spelling and typographical mistakes and the frequency with which they encounter such errors. I find that education level is a significant predictor one’s likelihood to make mistakes suggesting that existing social inequalities translate into differences in online behavior.


  • Introduction
  • Refining Approaches to The Digital Divide
    • Making mistakes while using the Web
  • Data and Methodology
    • The sample
    • Data collection
    • Coding
    • Methods of analysis
  • Findings
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion


I thank the guest editor and the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments. I would like to acknowledge generous support from the Markle Foundation and NSF grant #IIS0086143. The project has also been supported in part by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, and through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University. I am also grateful to the Dan David Foundation for its support.

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