March Madness?


I’ve read on several blogs and new sites about a recent study that apparently links research behavior at American universities with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. According to this study by Charles Clotfelter, after Selection Sunday when the tournament teams are announced, the number of articles viewed on JSTOR drop.  What is really frustrating me about this study and all the people passing it along as a done deal in correlation is that it does not take into consideration one important factor.

Clotfelter doesn’t mention — and I haven’t seen anyone ask — what effect that Spring Break has on research behavior.  Think about it.  Every March colleges and universities have no classes for at least a week and many students leave campus for recreation, volunteer service projects, and job recruiting activities.  Of course they’re not looking at JSTOR during Spring Break.  Even upon returning to campus, many students aren’t going to head straight to the library, especially if their mid-terms were before Spring Break.

So yeah, college students may be watching basketball, but maybe Professor Coltfetter needs to revisit his assumptions.