Indira Sen, Fabian Flöck, Katrin Weller, Bernd Weiß, Claudia Wagner: A Total Error Framework for Digital Traces of Human Behavior on Online Platforms, Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 85, Issue S1, 2021, Pages 399–422, https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfab018
People’s activities and opinions recorded as digital traces online, especially on social media and other web-based platforms, offer increasingly informative pictures of the public. They promise to allow inferences about populations beyond the users of the platforms on which the traces are recorded, representing real potential for the social sciences and a complement to survey-based research.
But the use of digital traces brings its own complexities and new error sources to the research enterprise. Recently, researchers have begun to discuss the errors that can occur when digital traces are used to learn about humans and social phenomena. This article synthesizes this discussion and proposes a systematic way to categorize potential errors, inspired by the Total Survey Error (TSE) framework developed for survey methodology.