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Research at St Andrews

Social network construction in the information age: Views and perspectives

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Michael Farrugia, Neil Hurley, Diane Payne, Aaron Quigley

School/Research organisations


Social scientists have been studying and refining their network data collection instruments for the last number of decades. Data collection in this field traditionally consists of manually conducting interviews and questionnaires on a population of interest to derive a list of ties between the members of the population and which can later be studied from a sociological perspective. Great care and considerable resources are often required during the research design and data collection phases in order to ensure that the final data set is well focused, unbiased and representative of the selected population. Nowadays electronic network data is becoming widely available and easier to access and this data brings with it a number of advantages over manually collecting data. The ease of data collection, lower cost, large scale, temporal information and the elimination of respondent bias and recall problems are all concrete benefits of electronic data. With these clear advantages, could electronic data be a solution to problems encountered with manual data collection? Electronic data is often available as a bi-product of other processes (such as phone call logs and email server logs), so often the data is not collected with the explicit purpose of being studied from a social network perspective. This aspect shifts the design decisions on electronic data to a later processing stage once the data is available, rather than before the data is collected. This shift introduces a different set of decisions and processes when dealing with electronic data collection. What are the best ways to process and interpret the data to achieve valid insights into the 'real' social network that the social scientist is interested in? In this chapter, the authors will discuss the differences between manual data collection and electronic data collection to understand the advantages and the challenges brought by electronic social network data. They will discuss in detail the processes that are used to transform electronic data to social network data and the procedures that can be used to validate the resultant social network.



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Network Mining, Analysis, and Research Trends
Subtitle of host publicationTechniques and Applications
PublisherIGI Global
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9781613505137
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011

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