I disagree with my esteemed friend and colleague Bill Richards that "10 is
too small". Fine analyses have been done on that number or a bit larger,
looking at variation over time, or variation among network members -- who
is central and why.
I agree with my e f&c BR that you can do a whole network elicitation of
120 without much fatigue. Keith Hampton and I did it for the Netville
study, and folks found it to be the most interesting part of the study.
Keith knows the details more than me.
Barry Wellman Professor of Sociology NetLab Director
[log in to unmask] http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
Centre for Urban & Community Studies University of Toronto
455 Spadina Avenue Toronto Canada M5S 2G8 fax:+1-416-978-7162
On Thu, 26 Jul 2001, Bill Richards wrote:
> Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 00:03:38 -0700
> From: Bill Richards <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: optimal network size?
> Stacy --
> You are right about 10 being too small. There is simply not enough room in
> a network of 10 people for anything particularly interesting or complex to happen.
> As for what will be so large as to cause respondent fatigue, it's not possible to
> give a particular number. It depends, among other things, on how dense the
> network is. If the network has a total of 120 people and each person in the
> network has only half a dozen connections, there shouldn't be much respondent
> fatigue as long as the names are organized in a way that makes it easy for each
> respondent to locate the ones he or she is connected to.
> If the network has a total of 50 people and each person in the network has thirty
> or forty connections, you are going to have respondent fatigue, especially if
> "multiple measures" means a LOT of complicated measures.
> The critical factor for an upper limit that prevents so much respondent
> fatigue that the validity of your results are threatened will depend more on how
> many connections each member of the network is likely to have and how many
> measures they have to fill out for each person they select than on the total number
> of people in the network.
> A network with 120 will be large enough for a range of interesting phenomena
> to be seen. Do you want to just demonstrate an analytic technique or are you
> interested in studying real-world phenomena? For the former, use a network
> that is big enough to let you demonstrate the abilities of your technique. For
> the latter, use a network that is more than "just large enough" to show the kind
> of things you are interested in. If you don't, you take the risk of trivializing your
> problem or stacking the dice by limiting the range of what is possible.
> Personally, I like bigger better than smaller.
> Have fun!
> Stacy wrote:
> > I'm looking for a few seasoned network researchers who can give me a little
> > guidance on choosing an optimal network size that will:
> > (a) maximize the range in centrality scores I will find within the network,
> > from highly central to peripheral, and
> > (b) minimize respondent fatigue, as I plan to ask each network member to
> > scan the list and spend time filling out multiple measures for each person
> > selected.
> > I am in the fortunate position of choosing size parameters for the networks
> > I will analyze, and I'd like to specify a range that has some grounding in
> > experience, if possible. I have potential access to networks that range
> > from 10 members up to 120, and I intuitively think that 10 may be too small
> > and that 120 may be too big. A pilot study is in the works to help me come
> > up with an optimal range, but I'm wondering if any of you, from experience,
> > can suggest a range that will satisfy both conditions.
> > Best,
> > Stacy
> > P.S. I wish to publicly thank all of you who responded to my earlier email
> > about using the Web to collect network data. Your ideas and suggestions
> > were quite helpful and I'm moving along on this portion of my study. Thanks!
> Bill Richards
> School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
> 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, B.C. Canada V5A 1S6
> Phone: 604 291-4119, secretary: 604 291-3687, home: 604 251-3272
> fax: 604 291-4024
> Web site: http://www.sfu.ca/~richards
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