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A Comparison of Student Use and Understanding of Text Messaging Shorthand

Presentation at Elon Student Undergraduate Research Forum, Spring 2009

Johnie A. Blackwell III (Dr. Lynn Heinrichs) Department of Computing Sciences

The overall purpose of this research project is to investigate the use and understanding of text
messaging shorthand by students at two different universities. Text messaging has become such a sixth
sense to many college students. However, text messaging is not just used for social reasons; it is also used
to communicate in business. To avoid a communication mishap, students must be able to effectively use
acronyms that have become commonplace for text messaging shorthand. There is a different “language”
between social and business communications which each have their own unique way of using text
messaging information effectively. For example, in social language the acronym “ATM” might refer to an
automated teller machine, whereas in a business language it means at the moment. Little research has
been done to date on how much students use and understand this shorthand. The primary focus of this
research will be to answer these questions:

  • How many students use text messaging? How frequently do they use text messaging?
  • Why do students use acronyms and shorthand in text messages, and how do they perceive the
  • use of shorthand impacts communication?
  • Can students correctly identify the meaning of various acronyms or shorthand when presented
  • as stand-alone entries?

To seek the answers to these questions, a survey was administered in the fall of 2008 to students
enrolled in the introductory MIS course at two universities. The responses were coded and entered into a
Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Frequency counts were used to analyze the data, and the z-test for two
proportions was used to test for significant differences between the two universities. The results of the
study will give a greater understanding of how students use, perceive, and understand text messaging