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A Mixed Methods Approach to Network Data Collection


There is a growing interest in examining network processes with a mix of qualitative and quantitative network data. Research has consistently shown that free recall name generators entail recall bias and result in missing data that affects the quality of social network data. This study describes a mixed methods approach for collecting social network data, combining a free recall name generator in the context of an online survey with network relations data coded from transcripts of semi-structured qualitative interviews. The combined network provides substantially more information about the network space, both quantitatively and qualitatively. While network density was relatively stable across networks generated from different data collection methodologies, there were noticeable differences in centrality and component structure across networks. The approach presented here involved limited participant burden and generated more complete data than either technique alone could provide. We make suggestions for further development of this method.

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