Information via Academic BBS in China:
A Content Analysis


Dan Li
Associated Professor
School of Nursing
Jianghan University
145 Qiuchang Road, Jiangan District
Wuhan, Hubei Province 430022
P.R. China
Hanrong Wang
Assistant Professor, Law/
Technology Librarian
Houston Cole Library
Jacksonville State University
Jacksonville, AL 36265


ABSTRACT: With the advent of the Internet technology, electronic bulletin board systems (BBS) in universities in China have been increasingly used as a means of information dissemination. This paper examines the existing 75 campus BBS on China Education and Research Network Website, analyses the types of information available, and concludes that BBS is a very popular alternative vehicle for sharing information in an academic community outside of libraries.


A university is a large community where both academic and every-day life information is disseminated. Access to and effective use of the campus and community information is a key issue that students currently face. Knowledgeable people, books, journals, newspapers and websites are all good sources of information. With the advent of the Internet technologies, information searching is less limited by time and space. The electronic Bulletin Board System (BBS), one of the Internet technologies, has been widely used as a means for information dissemination and retrieval.


BBS is a computer system used as information centers and forums for interest groups or location (Bidgoli, 2003). It is a very popular online community for people to exchange information. It is also one of the best communications and entertainment media. Once logged on, you can read and write messages, upload and download files, enjoy some factual information or even play online games.


With students as original users, university BBS in China is playing an increasingly important role for discussion and information exchange. Community information gathering, popular music downloading, or even personal articles’ publishing can all be achieved there. For some students, it is a place one must go every day. In addition, university network set up, wideband use, cheaper connection fees, and dorm Internet connection provide a compatible environment for building and using of BBS on campus, thus making BBS access more easily. All these factors have enhanced the ability to conduct research.


I. Literature Review


Bulletin Board System is a database which parallels the paper bulletin boards. Its chief attributes are electronic mail, news items, feature stories, and other upload/download files for staff or public (Dewey, 1986).


Born in 1977 (Christensen & Seuss, 1978), BBS has been playing an important part in enhancing public relations and generating information about the community. In Dewey’s survey (Dewey, 1986), 15 (30%) libraries were using BBS and 6 (12%) were planning to operate BBS for library services. Bertot and McClure (1994) found a growing number of agencies using BBS to provide access to and disseminate electronic government information. The University of Southern California's School of Business has a just-in-time bulletin board system to help its graduates find jobs (Tetzeli, 1992). BBS is also used in University of Minnesota for library service (Grosch, 1991).GET Reference After Dark” is a computer bulletin board-based message center, developed by the Erie County Library System, which permits after-hour access to library services such as reference questions, book requests, and comments (Wirick, 1991).


 In August 1995, the first BBS in China debuted on the CERNET with the sheer efforts of the students from the Qinghua University (Liu, 2001). Since opened net bulletin board in 2001 (Creed, 2001), the web-base BBS is very popular in China: about one-fifth of Chinese netizens regularly make use of BBS (Xiao, 2004). These BBS can be run by individuals, commercial companies (such as NetEase, Sina, and Sohu) or government agencies (such as,, and BBSs in universities are usually run by the student volunteers.,, and are some of the most famous ones. With the similar academic background and age level, university students are using BBS more frequently than any other groups. By June 19, 2004, the number of registered members at Tongji University BBS ( is more than 50,000.


Literature review indicates that BBS as a tool for information search was widely used in America in 1980’s to 1990’s. It may seem like relics now. However, BBS is still very popular in China. Literature review also reveals that not much research has been done concerning the information aspect. The current study will focus on the contents of BBS on university BBS in China to reveal what information is available there so as to provide a guidance to information specialists.


II. Methodology


Contents analysis was selected for this study in order to collect specific data from a variety of participants. BBS of 75 institutions were selected for analysis. Those institutions were identified on the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) website (, which is an authoritative site administered by the Ministry of Education of P.R.C. An important criterion was that each BBS selected is either from a university or an academic institution. When the links on the CERNET did not work, BBS availability was checked directly from the institution’s web. All data were collected during June 10 to June25, 2003.


According to McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology Online, BBS is a computer system that enables its users, usually members of a particular interest group, to leave messages and to share information and software. The distinctive features of BBS include a telnet or web logon; a collection of messages; and a reply area on individual themes. A key research question concerning information on academic BBS is: What types of information are available on BBS?


An initial exploration of subjects on BBS in light of the key research question enabled us to develop the following list of characteristics:


Ø      institution types (e.g., regular universities, colleges, radio and TV universities, and research institutions),

Ø      BBS accessibility (e.g., availability, and Web-based),

Ø      guest logon availability

Ø      available information categories


A column chart was used to record data for institution type, BBS accessibility, and guest logon availability for each BBS under study. The total occurrences of numbers for each feature were calculated and a simple percentage obtained. A table was use to record information categories with a detailed description for each.


III. Findings and Discussion


The column chart shows the institution types, BBS accessibility, and the guest logon availability.


Out of 75 academic BBS studied, 53 (78%) can be accessed. Of those accessible BBS, 48 (out of 68, 71%) are in regular universities, 2 (out of 2, 100%) in colleges, 2 (out of 2, 100%) in radio & TV universities, and 1 (out of 3, 33%) in research institutions.


They are:








天地人大 BBS--中国人民大学











(华东) (

侏罗纪公园--中国地质大学 (

一网深情--电子科技大学 (

梅陇客栈--华东理工大学 (

兵马俑站--西安交通大学 (


放鹤亭--中国矿业大学 (

教学BBS--甘肃广播电视大学 (

珞珈山水--武汉大学 (

天坛--陕西师范大学 (

牡丹园--吉林大学 (

五色土BBS--中国农业大学 (

漓江夜话--桂林电子工业学院 (

思源BBS站--西安交通大学 (

星光灿烂--江苏电大 (

锦城驿站--西南交通大学 (

燕赵BBS站--河北大学 (

植物学教育科研网 (

东篱采菊--华南农业大学 (

楚水社区--吉林大学朝阳校区 (


经贸大学BBS站--对外经济贸易大学 (

碧海青天BBS站--大连理工大学 (


丝韵心雨--苏州大学 (

饮水思源--上海交通大学 (

青春在线时代论坛--河北职业技术师范学院 (

绿原--郑州牧业工程高等专科学校 (

经纬论坛--武汉理工大学 (

成都理工大学绿茵BBS站 (


小天-成都信息工程学院 (

我爱南开--南开大学 (

烟雨漓江--广西师范大学 (



青春在线--山东理工大学 (


The percentages of accessible BBS indicate that BBS usage is very popular in academic institutions. In addition, guest logon and web-based access from all 53 accessible BBS make it easier for browsing and navigating for non-members.


The “Information Categories and Description” Table shows that the accessible BBS contained one or more information categories, including the information on:


Ø      Amusement;

Ø      Bulletin Board System;

Ø      Campus Life;

Ø      Computer Technologies;

Ø      Culture & Literature;

Ø      Emotion;

Ø      News Scholarly Information; and

Ø      Sports.

These information categories reflect users’ information needs from different aspects in an academic environment. They also represent part of the current campus culture.


Information on campus life is varied from institution to institution:


Ø      “Amusement” enriches students’ after-class life;

Ø      “Bulletin Board System” provides students with basic instructions as how to use BBS;

Ø      “Campus Life” includes announcements from relevant departments;

Ø      “Computer Technologies” enables users to keep up with the latest development;

Ø      “Culture & Literature” helps to raise students’ level of artistic appreciation;

Ø      “Emotional Information” offers tips for solving emotional and psychological problems;

Ø      “News and Social Information” exposes students to the real world;

Ø      “Scholarly Information” includes course-related information; and

Ø      “Sports” is an integral part of the campus life.


Those types of information reflect students’ current concerns, which will help information specialists to build a better user-centered service, including acquisition, instruction, reference, and other services.


However, this study is a snapshot. More categories might be added while others may have refined features. BBS manners and usage policies are also areas worthy of further studies.


IV. Conclusion


Created as a cyber place for people to exchange messages and download software programs, BBS is now more a place for users to share information in an academic environment in China. They attract groups with the same interest. They are a much quieter place. Users won’t be bombarded with annoying bulk mails as from listservs. Focused on campus life and academic information, with same academic background and slightly age differences, academic BBS attracts a stable, while still large, number of members and visitors. Visiting academic Bullet Board System regularly will help information specialists to identify the information needs of academic users and provide better services to the academic community accordingly.




Bertot, J. C. & McClure, C. R. (1994). “Assessing US government bulletin boards: problems, policy issues and recommendations.” Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy, 4 (1), 45-63.


Bidgoli, H. (Ed.). (2003). The Internet Encyclopedia. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.


Christense, W. & Seuss, R. (1978). “Hobbyist computerized bulletin board.” Library Journal, 111 (18), 10.


Creed, A. (2001).China allows to open Net bulletin board.” Newsbytes News Network. Retrieved June 16, 2004 from


Dewey, P. R. (1986). “Electronic bulletin boards: applications in libraries.” Library Journal, 111 (18), 10-20.


Grosch, A. N. (1991). “The University of Minnesota Libraries’ Electronic Bulletin Board.” OCLC Systems & Services, 7 (1).


Liu, J. (2001). “Network strives to catch up with the world.” China Education and Research Network. Retrieved June 21, 2003, from


Tetzeli, R. (1992). “Just-in-time hiring for recent MBAs.” Fortune, 125 (12), 12.


Wirick, T. (1991). “GET reference after dark.” Computers in Libraries, 11(3), 22.


Xiao (2004). “BBS in China.” Corante Tech News. Retrived June 19, 2004, from




1. Column Chart: Institution Types, BBS Accessibility, Guest log on availability

2. Table: Information Categories and Descriptions

Information Categories

Detailed Description


Games, Fashion & Beauty, Travel, Pictures, Music, Movies, Jokes, Comics, and etc.

Bulletin Board System

Announcements, BBS Help, BBS Statistics, Complains & suggestions, Test Area, and etc.

Campus Life

Academic departments (including library); Freshmen Group, Graduate Student Group, Campus Radio, Other Current Campus Issues, Campus Club & Organizations, Other Special Interest Group, Community Services & Tips and etc.

Computer & Information Technologies

Hardware, Software, Web Design, Network, Programming, Web Security, Other Information Sciences, and etc.

Culture & Literature

Arts, Novels, Essays, Poems, Members’ Writings, and etc.


Feelings, Memories, Boys & Girls

News & Social Information

National & International News, Campus News, Houses, Jobs, Weather, Other Universities, Flea Market, Other Society-Related Information, and etc.

Scholarly information

History, English, Other Course Related Information, Graduate School Preparing, Student-Faculty Communication, and etc.


Badminton, Basketball, Football, Tennis, Table Tennis, Volleyball and etc.


Copyright © 2004 Dan Li and Hanrong Wang
Submitted to CLIEJ 7 September 2004.