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Bobby Approved (v 3.2)
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Copyright ©2000-2004
Online Policy Group, Inc.

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Research: Online Service Provider Assessment Project: Methodology: Researchers

OSPA researchers are responsible for two tasks. They are recruited to determine whether and how the selected web sites are blocked under varying access levels for a specific online service provider. They are also recruited to rate the selected web sites according to the latest Internet content rating system from the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA).

This section describes the methodology for recruiting, qualifying, and training OSPA researchers.

Recruiting Researchers

The core research staff will assemble a list of contacts at academic institutions across the U.S., so as to focus on American English culture and language. Similar studies could take place in other cultures and languages using the methodology applied to this research project.

The core research staff will then email these contacts, asking them to act as researcher recruiters. The duties of these recruiters will be limited to obtaining permission on behalf of the research staff to email recruitment letters to lists of students and faculty at those institutions. A contact who agrees to identify and gain permission for the use of email lists shall be termed a recruiter.

The core research staff will send a request letter to recruiters.

The goal of the researcher recruiting process is to select researchers who are least likely to have a collective bias toward any particular research outcome. Therefore, lists consisting specifically of people organized to combat discrimination will be eliminated as candidates for recruiting researchers. Such people may be more likely than the general population to anticipate an outcome that indicates the existence of discrimination in online service providersí conditions of use.

Recruiters will send out a recruitment letter to all members of the selected lists. This letter will specify only that the study is about testing online service providers to determine if they are fair, accurate, and inclusive; the letter will not specify any particular type of content or community testing, in order to minimize self-selection among the researchers.

In the event that contacts send the research staff lists unsuitable for use, the research staff will email them to tell them why those lists are unsuitable.

Qualifying Researchers

The research staff will send a researcher application form to potential researchers who respond to the recruitment request.

Training Researchers

The core research staff will conduct research outlined in the sections on History, Technology, Policies and Instant Messaging.

The core research staff will train researchers to conduct research outlined in all other sections of the methodology.

This training will consist of assigning the researchers a series of tasks. Completion of a task permits the researcher to proceed to the next. Researchers who fail to complete all tasks satisfactorily will be excluded from the project.

Researchers must fill in the application form. The form is designed to eliminate those volunteers who lack the level of computer literacy necessary to conduct the project. They must then subscribe to the OSPA email list, and read the OSPA methodology.

The core research staff will create a sample web site in order to assess the accuracy of researchers. Researchers will be asked to examine the sample web site for blocked pages, following the methodology contained in the section on Web Browsing. They will then be asked to rate pages on the test web site according to the Internet content rating system devised by the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). The core research staff will eliminate researchers who fail to demonstrate a basic competency in testing skills.

Further training will be provided for those who wish to participate in the Member Web Sites section of the project.

Revision 1.100 of February 2, 2001

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