Collecting Data of Whole and Ego-Centered Networks

March 8, 2017, 1pm

Mannheim, converence room B2,8

Dr. Tobias Stark


Research on social networks has become increasingly popular due to the public discourse of the past decade, new theoretical insights, and improved statistical techniques. Most contemporary social network studies still make use of data collected through surveys and thus face a multitude of methodological challenges. I will discuss methods to collect data of whole networks and of ego-centered networks and present challenges and recent best-practice insights. Data of whole networks can only be collected if all members of the network are known prior to the data collection. This leads to practical and ethical issues for the researcher but allows a straightforward collection of the data. How to collect data of ego-centered networks in face-to-face surveys is also well understood. However, several studies have shown that data quality suffers if network items originally developed for face-to-face interviews are used in online surveys. This is problematic as more and more surveys are done online today. In response to this challenge, a number of new tools have been developed to collect ego-centered network data in digital surveys. I will show different existing tools and then present GENSI, a new software that we developed to measure ego-centered networks in online surveys. GENSI makes use of Web 2.0 graphical features to create a more engaging experience for survey respondents when answering the same question for each of their network contacts. Results from a survey experiment shows that completing a survey with GENSI takes equally long as a traditional ego-centered network questionnaire. However, the new tool appears to produce data of higher quality and respondents report enjoying GENSI more than the traditional questionnaire.

About the speaker

Tobias Stark studied social sciences at the University of Konstanz and the University of Mannheim. From 2006 to 2011, he completed his PhD in sociology at the University of Groningen (Netherlands). Afterwards, he spent two years in the lab of Jon Krosnick at Stanford University working as a Marie Curie Fellow. In 2014, he moved to Utrecht University (Netherlands) where he became a tenured assistant professor of interdisciplinary social science in 2015. His research is on (1) the link between social networks and racial prejudice, (2) how social networks can be used in interventions to reduce prejudice, and (3) survey methods to collect social network data.