Youth information-seeking behavior and online government information: Tweens’ perceptions of US federal government websites

Natalie Greene Taylor (School of Information, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 14 May 2018



The purpose of this paper is to focus on middle-school-aged young people’s information-seeking behavior and the knowledge and perceptions they have of and about federal government websites.


The case study included 37 youth across four middle schools in the mid-Atlantic USA who all participated in a research-focused after-school program. During these sessions, they participated in several data collection activities, including an interview, a survey, a word association activity, an evaluation of the homepage of a government website, and card-sorting. Using conventional, directed, and summative content analysis techniques, the narratives from each data collection activity were coded using in vivo and theory-based terms.


The study finds that the majority of participants viewed government websites favorably, but were frequently unsure of what government websites are or who is responsible for their creation. Perhaps more significantly, participants’ views of information-related policies frequently were raised during discussions about government websites. The perceptions reflected the youth information-seeking behaviors and information literacy gaps.


Overall, these findings shed light on the opinions of an understudied population in e-government research and inform both policy makers and educators on how to best disseminate government information to youth.



This study would not have been possible without the young people who participated. The author would also like to thank Drs Mega Subramaniam and Beth St Jean at the University of Maryland, the principle investigators of the HackHealth project from which this study came. This paper also uses data and language from the author’s 2015 dissertation, for which the author had an incredibly supportive and knowledgeable committee.


Taylor, N.G. (2018), "Youth information-seeking behavior and online government information: Tweens’ perceptions of US federal government websites", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 3, pp. 509-525.

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