Information Searches That Solve Problems

  • December 30, 2007
  • By Leigh Estabrook, Evans Witt, and Lee Rainie

This report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project emerges from a national survey that looks at how people use a variety of information sources to help them address some common problems that could be related in some way to government agencies and programs. This survey was performed in conjunction with the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The problems about which we queried included: dealing with a serious illness or health concern; making a decision about school enrollment, financing school, or upgrading work skills; dealing with a tax matter; changing a job or starting a business; and getting information about major programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

In general, more people turn to the Internet (at home, work, libraries or other places) than any other source of information and support, including experts and family members. There was some variance in the results, depending on the type of problem people faced. Experts mattered most when people faced health problems; government agencies topped the list when information about specific programs was the concern.