This chapter discusses validity of units of analysis of Web log data. First, Web log units are compared to the unit of analysis of television to understand the conceptual issues of media use unit of analysis. Second, the validity of both Client-side and Server-side Web log data are examined along with benefits and shortcomings of each Web log data. Each method has implications on cost, privacy, cache memory, session, attention, and many other areas of concerns. The challenges were not only theoretical but, also, methodological. In the end, Server-side Web log data turns out to have more potentials than it is originally speculated. Nonetheless, researchers should decide the best research method for their research and they should carefully design research to claim the validity of their data. This chapter provides some valuable recommendations for both Client-side and Server-side Web log researchers.
A Unit Of Analysis
Many researchers already utilized Internet log data to understand individual patterns of knowledge seeking via the Internet. They created variables to track which Web pages users have visited (e.g., Eveland & Dunwoody, 1998a; Eveland & Dunwoody, 1998b; Phippen, Sheppard & Furnell, 2004), what users have queried (e.g., Jansen & Spink, 2005; Jansen, Spink & Pederson, 2005; Jones, Cunningham, McNab & Boddie, 2000; Sandore, 1993; Taha, 2004), what they wrote while they were using a computer, who they communicated with, what they communicated, or how they communicated (e.g., McTavish, Pingree, Hawkins, & Gustafson, 2003; Phippen, 2004). These units of analysis of Web site use have been operationalized based on the availability of Web log data.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Cached Files: Some files that are saved and retrieved by browsers or proxy servers to save network resources
An Episode of Use: A time frame used to measure a specific occasion of use.
Multi-Episode Segment of Time: Media use during the particular segments of the lifetime such as hours, weeks, or months.
Session: A set of sequentially or semantically related clicks.
Server-Side Log: All users’ Web access activities on a Web server saved in a Web server as a computer file.
Lifestyle Time Frame: General media use during the lifetime.
Page Requests: Users’ requests to the Web server to send files to the users’ browser.
Page Access: Users’ one screen access to the Web server content.
Client-Side Log: All users’ computer activities saved in a client’s computer as a computer file.