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SOCNET  April 2006

SOCNET April 2006

Subject:

Re: sampling strategy online survey(s)

From:

Nick Guenther <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Nick Guenther <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Apr 2006 20:16:24 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

Oh geeze, I'm a bit late on this one. Anyway, my thoughts:


On 4/18/06, Langenberg Thomas <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I am currently pre-testing an online survey, which I would like to launch in a couple of weeks.
>
> However, the issue I am still struggling with is the sampling strategy. Let me briefly give you some background.
>
>
> *   My research objective is to identify information and advice networks in the online community. Besides a set of demographic/control questions, I ask the respondents to identify their three most important online community contacts (e.g., who comes to you to ask for information/advice AND whom do you turn to to ask for information/advice)
>

Only 3?

>
> *   The community has more than 80,000 registered users. However, the percentage of the really active members is assumed to be far below the latter figure (no clear figures exist). Furthermore, users of the community reported multiple identities of single users (several cases are known, where one user utilizes several aliases)
>
> *   There is - currently - not technically feasible/easy way of extracting a list of the most active network members, which might define the sample size for the survey (besides going on the website and manually scan through the forums etc).
>

If you can get access to the forum backend (and it sounds like you
probably can) it would be possible to whip up a script to mine the
forum database for the active segment of the population, even
recording the attribute-data like the percentage of their posts that
were in each subforums or how long the threads they posted to were, or
how long their posts were, or how long their posts in specific
subforums were.....

Anyway, doing that, getting a complete list of your subjects, would be
my first step. Advice networks don't really fall to random sampling
methods so I'd avoid them, but I'm still learning, I don't know what
tricks people have up their sleeves yet.

> *   I originally planned to announce the survey and post the link to the survey on the homepage of the forum instead of sending the survey link to each member individually.
>

Depending on if people usually read the front page or not this will
either work well or backfire.

>
> The question(s) I thus have is/are:
>
>
>
> *   How have other researchers solved the sampling issue in a similar type of situation?
>

Wasserman & Faust, 33: "Most network studies focus on well-defined,
completely enumerated sets, rather than on samples" and it goes on to
say how random sampling is usually only used with SNA to define
network properties like mean degree, the density, etc. It also
suggests snowball sampling; perhaps you could do a snowball starting
with certain people who bite the initial front page post, and then use
results from them to goad other users into carrying out the survey?


> *   Have other studies tried to identify information and advice network with an ego-sampling strategy, where the exact sample size wasn't known ex-ante? If yes, did they succeed or fail?
>
> *   What are the most relevant/important papers to look at with respect to sampling strategy/research methods of online surveys in online communities?
>

Well, these are from before the net, but "Frank O." did a lot of work
in this area it seems. Try searching him on google scholar.

Best luck,
-Nick

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