Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Sopory Pradeep


Considering that information seekers often search and pay attention to others' stories and narratives about their health issues, the purpose of this dissertation is to investigate college students' information seeking process with regards to sexual health information in online support groups. More specifically, this dissertation examines the cognitive procedures related to how active information seekers utilize user-created messages shared in online support groups to manage their uncertainty about sexual health, and how social comparisons to others influence their information management strategies. A web-based experimental survey was conducted. The findings of this dissertation mark a meaningful step toward refining and advancing the TMIM framework: First, this study confirms that TMIM is an effective theoretical tool to explain the information management process in the context of college students' management of information about sexual health in online settings. Second, this dissertation extends the TMIM framework as a cyclical process over two phases and examines the role of social comparison information in the subsequent information management process.

Third, information users prefer to seek further and detailed information from downward comparison targets, and efficacy predicts this tendency. Fourth, this study highlights that the importance of efficacy in predicting information seeking seemed to be limited to the initial information management process, and information users do not repeatedly evaluate efficacy in their continuous search for the user-created messages shared in online support groups. The theoretical contribution is presented along with the discussions of practical implications and suggestions for future research.

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