Searching for a 'Plan B': Young Adults' Strategies for Finding Information about Emergency Contraception Online

Authors: Eszter Hargittai and Heather Young

Download: Please contact Eszter Hargittai for a pre-print copy.

Citation: Hargittai, E. & Young, H. (2012). Searching for a 'Plan B': Young Adults' Strategies for Finding Information about Emergency Contraception Online. Policy & Internet. 4(2) Article 4. June.


While research has established that turning to the Internet for information about health matters is increasingly common, we know little about the strategies that people use to access such information and the accuracy of material they consult online. This paper draws on in-person observations and interviews with a diverse group of 210 young adults about their experiences with looking for emergency contraception (EC) information on the Web. Findings suggest that despite being a highly wired group with much experience using the Internet, many respondents are unable to find accurate information on this important topic. One third of participants were unable to find any relevant information about EC and the majority of the whole group could not identify the most efficient way to acquire EC in a time of need. Results suggest that despite vast amounts of information available online, many people do not have the necessary skills to navigate online content well with policy implications for educating people about informed and efficient Internet uses.


The authors are grateful to the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which made this research possible. The authors would like to thank James Trussell for helpful input as well as Elizabeth Anderson, Eva Bognar, Waleeta Canon, Jessica Diamond and Gina Walejko for their help with data collection and Rey Junco for inspiring the title. This paper would not have been possible without the research assistants and staff of the Web Use Project group from 2007 to 2009. The helpful support of Ann Feldman and Tom Moss is also acknowledged.

If you would like to copy, distribute or reprint this paper “for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research” (see Title 17, US Copyright Code) then please contact the publisher to secure permission.