Sample and Instrument
Based on the literature in the previous sections, we constructed an inventory of e-dating activities that followed the six stages in our e-dating development theory (see Appendix 1 for the research inventory). We administered the inventory to a group of 22 volunteers from two undergraduate classes in a private Midwestern university in the U. S. during the first semester of the 2006-2007 academic year. The average age of the participants was 20.4 and the number of males and females was about equal (12 females and 10 males). All participants were white and the majority were of upper middle class background.
Data Collection Process
The participants in the study were not paid for their participation. Instead, they received a free three-month subscription to Match. com (paid by the researchers), the largest e-dating service in the industry. In addition, they received credit for one assignment in the two courses that they were doing with one of the investigators. Participants were informed that participation was not compulsory and if they chose not to participate they were provided with an alternative assignment to do for the course.
Participants were also informed that because of the small sample and the need to keep participants as “similar to each other as possible,” only heterosexual students that were not in a committed relationship were invited to participate. Also, even though we did not require participants to be e-dating novices, all participants indicated that they had no previous e-dating experience prior to joining the study.
The participants were assured by the researchers that the data that they volunteered was only going to be analyzed in aggregate. No personal data about participants was to be made public.
They did not receive information about our e – dating theory, but they were told that our major focus was their behavior, thoughts and feelings throughout the e-dating experience.
To establish a baseline of knowledge on e-dating for all participants, the researchers subscribed the participants to Match. com. This was followed with a two-hour lab tutorial on the various features of the Match. com service, including detailed information on how to create a profile, conduct and save searches, initiate contact and respond to contacts from others, and how to manage a personal Match. com account.
The management features of the account, which included a tally of: messages sent, messages received, winks sent, winks received, members rejected, members barred, members entered into favorites list, and so forth, were particularly important for our study because the participants were expected to report this information throughout the study.
Participants received 12 copies of the inventory and were asked to fill up and submit one copy per week, starting the third week of the semester. The majority of the participants submitted between 8 and 12 completed inventories. Even though participants were told that they could exit the study at any time and without an explanation, not one of the participants did so.