eBabbie Resource Center
Social Research in CyberSpace





Search Engines
Population Data
Public Opinion Data 
Social Issues 
Social Science Research Resources
State and Local Governments
U.S. Government
World History

A new resource is rapidly becoming an indispensable tool for social scientists: the Internet. Since the Internet, the World Wide Web, and other elements of the "information superhighway" are changing month by month, this appendix covers some basics that may be useful for readers new to cyberspace. It discusses four topics: email, mailing lists, gophers, and the World Wide Web. If you’re just beginning to explore this powerful tool, the information presented here should orient you enough to ask for help effectively.


The most common use of the Internet at present is as a substitute for telephone and postal services. As with a letter, you write out your communication, in this case by typing it into a computer. Then, rather than printing the letter, putting it in an envelope, and mailing it, you send it over a computer network. The recipient receives your message on his or her computer.

You’ll need a computer account at your school or through some other provider to use email or any of the other systems described in this appendix. If you can’t obtain an account through your school, you may want to consider joining a commercial Internet service provider (ISP). You’ve no doubt heard of the largest of these—America Online—but there are many competing choices. As of June 2001, The List (http://thelist.internet.com/) indicated there were 9700 ISPs to choose from. The Internet Access Providers Meta-list (http://www.herbison.com/herbison/iap_meta_list.html) offers a similar listing.
Users of a local network can communicate easily with each other, as can subscribers to the same commercial service. I’ll illustrate how to communicate with other parts of the Internet.

Once you’re connected, you send messages comprising the following elements: a message (just like a note, memo, or letter), a title (a short heading to identify the message, such as "Travel Plans"), and the address where you want to send the message. Your own address will be attached automatically to all sent messages.

An email address is typically a name at (@) a location. Each address contains three basic elements:

<name> @ <server> . <type>

The name is usually fairly straightforward. Names are assigned when an account is opened. Mine is "babbie," for example. (What are the odds on that?)

The type of account is also fairly simple. A series of abbreviations indicates the types of installation providing access to the Internet. Some common types used in the United States are these:

edu an educational institution
com a commercial provider such as Compuserve or a company
org a nonprofit organization, such as NPR
gov a government office
net a regional provider
bit Bitnet
In place of these abbreviations, the address may be an international country abbreviation. Here are some examples:
ar Argentina
au Australia
ca Canada
cn China
de Germany
eg Egypt
fr France
gh Ghana
jp Japan
mx Mexico
sg Singapore
uk United Kingdom
za South Africa
The middle portion of the address (the server, the local computer) varies greatly. For example, it’s simply "aol" for America Online. An example of an America Online address might be

The names of some educational servers are straightforward. For example, babbie@chapman. edu is mine at Chapman University. Some locations may have several mail servers, so a person’s address may contain more than one element, separated by periods.

When people give their addresses, they pronounce the "@" as "at" and call periods "dots." Hence, I would tell you my internet address is "babbie-at-chapman-dot-e-d-u."

In addition to originating messages, most email systems make it easy for you to reply to a message you receive. When you do so, the computer automatically addresses your reply to the original sender and attaches your address as well. It may also automatically reprint the original message as a part of your reply, often identifying lines with ">" marks.

Including the original message (or part of it) can be used to remind the original sender of what you’re responding to. Sometimes, you can break up the original message, interspersing your responses to the different parts of it. Here’s a brief example:

Original message:
Let’s go to the movies Saturday night.
I’d prefer to go in your car if that’s okay.
Let me know by Thursday.
Cheers, Jan
Automatic Reply Format:
>Let’s go to the movies Saturday night.
>I’d prefer to go in your car if that’s okay.
>Let me know by Thursday.
>Cheers, Jan

Edited Reply:
>Let’s go to the movies Saturday night.
       Sure, that’s great. What do you want to see?
>I’d prefer to go in your car if that’s okay.
       My car’s in the shop. How about yours?
See ya, Pat

Since it’s possible to reply to a reply, you may find yourself engaged in an unfolding conversation.

When replying to a message, it’s generally a bad idea to resend the entire message you received. Just include those portions (if any) that are useful in framing your response. If you resend everything, you may make the recipient wade through a lengthy document looking for your comments. Excess verbiage also uses up net resources, not to mention your recipient’s hard disk space.

In the evolving conventions of email, CAPITAL LETTERS are used as the equivalent of shouting or emphasis and should be used sparingly. For example, you might say, "I MUST get a new computer before I go nuts," but putting your whole message in capitals is the equivalent of screaming.
Now and then, you may encounter capital letters that make no sense, such as BTW or IMHO. These are some of the abbreviations used in Internet culture. Here are only a few of those you may come across:

BTW By the way
FYI For your information
IMHO In my humble opinion
IMNSHO In my not so humble opinion
FAQ Frequently asked questions
LOL Laughing our loud
RTFM Read the f——g manual

Because you can’t communicate facial expressions or tones of voice in typed messages, some conventions have been developed to handle that lack. For example, you can include emotional references in your statements, such as "It really made my day <grin> when you reminded me the exam is Monday." The symbol, <G>, is also used to indicate a grin.

As a more creative solution, Internet users have been establishing an ever-growing set of "emoticons" to indicate emotions in print. Here are some examples. You need to tip your head 90 degrees to the left to get the point.

:-) happy person
8-) happy person with glasses
8-)= happy person with glasses and a beard
:-( unhappy person
:-O surprised person
:-p person sticking out tongue


In addition to person-to-person email, you may find some of the thousands of electronic conversations useful. The most common of these go by the term listserv, though listproc and majordomo are major alternate systems. There are several such mailing lists appropriate to social research methods.

For example, METHODS is a mailing list created for people teaching social research methods, though anyone can join. Any of the subscribers can send a message to the list, and that message will appear in the mailboxes of all the other subscribers. If another subscriber wants to reply, that reply will also appear in the mailboxes of all subscribers. As a consequence, methods instructors have been able to discuss common problems and share solutions.
To subscribe to a mailing list, you send an email message to the computer that manages that list. In the case of METHODS, you do the following:

1. Send a message to listserv@mail.unm.edu
2. Do not put a title on the message
3. Send this message: subscribe methods Jane Doe (substitute your name for "Jane Doe")

After you’ve subscribed, send your messages to methods@mail.unm.edu.

This is a standard format, although there are some variants and exceptions. To subscribe to any of the lists that follow, send a subscribing message by substituting "listserv" for the name of the list and use the name of the list in the body of the message, as I just illustrated in the case of METHODS. You should get a reply confirming your subscription as well as the address where you should send messages to the other subscribers. (Notice that you send administrative requests, such as requests to start or cancel subscriptions, to a different address than the one where you send messages for posting on the mailing list.)

There’s no charge for subscribing to mailing lists. You don’t have to participate in the conversations; you can just listen if you want. And you can unsubscribe any time. Here are some other mailing lists you might find interesting. (Please note that addresses have no breaks or spaces, even though they might have line breaks as listed here.)

public opinion research
social theory
qualitative research
software for qualitative social research
criminal justice discussion
demography list out of Australia
    Note: send subscription to majordomo@coombs. anu.edu.au instead of to "listserv"
family science discussion
international political economy discussion
National Crime Survey discussion
qualitative research discussion
sociology graduate student discussion
United Nations Criminal Justice Information Network
social science data discussion
These are only a few of the mailing lists of interest to social researchers. Moreover, the number increases daily. In the spirit of a snowball sample, however, you’ll find that subscribing to one list will bring you references to others, and if you subscribe to them as well, they’ll bring further references. Without a doubt, there is more useful information available to you than you will be able to collect and read.


Imagine that a friend of yours wrote a computer program or created a document that they wanted to share with you. They would probably put a copy of the file on a disk and give it to you so that you could load it into your computer. Now imagine that you have tens of thousands of friends around the globe doing just that. Obviously they can’t put all those files on disks and send them to you. That’s the function of gophers, which can execute a file transfer protocol (ftp).

Programs such as Turbogopher or Fetch are designed to connect you to computers around the world. All you need (other than an ftp program) is the address ("host name") of an available computer. Perhaps the computer at your school can be accessed through a gopher.

Since this is a little more involved than sending email or subscribing to a mailing list, you should get local assistance in connecting to a gopher site. Once you’re connected with the distant computer, you’ll find yourself looking at a directory of files available there. Your job is to select a file at the distant computer and copy it to your own. While it may require a little trial and error, you’ll find the gopher program is designed to help you make the copies. (It will probably involve clicking a button labeled "Copy.")

The files available on computers around the world include text documents, computer games, check-record programs, data-analysis programs, and so forth. You won’t be able to appreciate the volume and variety of materials available to you except by checking it out for yourself. To get started on this, you might look in on Books A to Z Gopher Servers at http://booksatoz.com/Gopher.htm.


Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Internet today is the World Wide Web. It’s something like the network of ftp sites—sources of information scattered around the world—but you can access information much more easily, and the presentation format is much fancier.

To access the Web, you need a "browser" such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or a competing browser put out by NetScape. Commercial online services such as America Online provide their own Web browser. Then you can enter Web URL (uniform resource locator) addresses and go visit. As you’ll discover, nearly every Web location contains links in the form of highlighted words or buttons you can click, which will take you to related locations.

Typically, Web addresses begin with "http://," but current browsers often supply that part of the address for you. For example, you can visit Chapman University by going to


but you may only need to type the part of the address beginning with "www." Once there, you’ll discover a variety of options, including a list of Chapman’s academic programs. If you click the "Wilkinson College" button, you’ll be presented with, among other things, a list of the divisions composing the college. Click "Social Science" and then "Sociology." Now you’ll be able to get a list of the department "Faculty." Click that and then "Babbie" to find my playhouse.

If you click "Political Science Department," you’ll discover helpful links that take you to "The White House" or "The House of Representatives." This illustrates the interconnectedness of the various locations on the World Wide Web.

Quite often, using the Web involves locating the addresses of sites you don’t know about in advance. For instance, you might want to search for anything you can find on a given topic. To do this, you can use any one of hundreds of search engines that you can access via the Web.

Search engines index huge portions of the Web pages that have been created around the world. Some search engines, such as Yahoo!, are organized by subject, much like a library card catalog. You can funnel down from a general subject such as "history" to increasingly more-specific topics until you turn up the kinds of sites you’re interested in. Other search engines are not organized in this way. In either case, you simply enter keywords describing the topic you’re interested in, such as "United States crime rates" or "Marilyn Monroe." As you go along, you may find that you have to refine your search by using additional or different keywords. Many search engines will search Web discussion groups and even gopher sites as well as Web pages.

Because search engines work in different ways, it’s a good idea to (1) consult more than one search engine if you want to do a really thorough search and (2) read the tips for searching (or for "advanced" searching) that you’ll typically find on the search engine’s home page.
Here are the addresses of just a few popular search engines. If you want to find more, there’s an easy way to do it. Just use any of these search engines to search for . . . search engines!

Alta Vista
Ask Jeeves

These are general-purpose search engines. Here now are some specific Web locations that are relevant to social research. Please be aware that Web addresses often change, especially the more complex addresses that represent layers of documents at a given site. If a complex Web address is "not found," you might try deleting sections (divided by slashes) of the address from the right side, one at a time. Try the truncated address; if it doesn’t work, remove another section. Once you reach the primary or "home" Web page, you can usually find your target by using the links provided there.
Happy Surfing!


FEDIX—Federal Informational Exchange, Inc.
National Science Foundation
Searchable Index of Minority Scholarships & Fellowships
Yahoo Listing of Foundations


Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
Chicago Sun Times
Christian Science Monitor
Hong Kong Standard
Houston Chronicle
Iceland Daily News
India World
Irish Times
Jerusalem Post
Joong-ang Ilbo (Korea)
New York Times
New Zealand News
St. Petersburg Times (Russia)
San Jose Mercury News
Singapore Business Times
The Star (Malaysia)
Sydney Morning Herald
The Times of London
USA Today
Yahoo (Reuters News Service)
Population Data
Florida State University
Pennsylvania State University
University of Michigan
World Fertility Survey Data
Public Opinion Data
Gallup Organization
General Social Survey at ICPSR
Queen’s College, Sociology Department
Roper Center, University of Connecticut

Social Issues

Civil Rights
Gender Issues
Human Rights

Social Science Research Resources

Australian National University
California State University, Hayward
Clearing House for Social Sciences & Social Issues
Consortium for International EarthScience Information Network
Corporate Information Database
Economic and Social Research Council Data Archive
Institute for Research in Social Science
Institute for Research in the Social Sciences
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
National Election Survey
National Survey of Families & Households
Public Use Microdata Samples
Research for Social Science
Social Science Information Gateway
Social Sciences Data Center
University of California, San Diego
The Urban Information Center
WWW Virtual Library of Sociology
Yahoo—Social Science
Yahoo—Society and Culture

State and Local Governments


U.S. Government

Bureau of the Census
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bureau of Transportation Statistics
Centers for Disease Control
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Department of Education
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Bureau of Investigation
House of Representatives
National Center for Educational Statistics
National Institutes of Health
White House
World Factbook
World History

This list is not even the tip of the tip of the iceberg. One recent study estimated there were 800 million Web pages. There are more now. If I could give you a complete listing of the Web sites relevant to social research, it would be out of date by the time you read it. To get a sense of how fast the Web is expanding, recall a time when you worked on a project that absolutely consumed you for days on end. You hardly thought about anything else while you were completing the project. Well, tonight, tens of thousands of individuals around the world are working with that level of passion on their Web sites and countless others are working at a less frantic pace. And they’re doing it just for you.  Drop in and say howdy.