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Internet based Egonet surveys for large-N research
Quite some time ago (Oct. 2006) I queried the list about the availability of
ego net surveys that could be internet based. I received a few answers and
several other responses from folks who also wanted to know about the answer
to this question. I had no idea just how difficult the search would be. The
full compilation post and information is below - many thanks to all who
responded, many went above and beyond the call.
Regards, Stephen. ([log in to unmask])
Dept. of Political Science, Boston University
Here was my original query:
Does anyone have experience doing online egonet surveys? I'd like
respondents to be able to go to a webpage and complete the survey online.
I'll have 250-350 respondents from around the country. I already have EgoNet
(Chris McCarty's software) but haven't found documentation that would allow
me to set it up online. A Google search did not help. Using a tool like
survey monkey makes the exploration and input of the alter's data cumbersome
First and most obvious was the potential for Chris McCarty's Egonet program,
a software specifically designed for large-N egonet surveys. Chris was very
helpful when he and I corresponded. There are two issues for this software
however. First, it is java-based, meaning that any computer that a survey
respondent is using must have java installed. This has obvious difficulties
for large scale internet dissemination. Second, the program does not yet
have a working internet interface although Chris promises it is in
development. ([log in to unmask], http://survey.bebr.ufl.edu/egonet/)
Second, I heard from Alexandra (Ali) Marin ([log in to unmask]) who
had implemented a small internet based web survey. Ali was very helpful, and
kind. Her survey was developed from scratch via the assistance of a computer
programmer. It was developed using PERL script programming, and has to be
lodged on an Apache server. I pursued this approach for 4 weeks before
ultimately shifting to a different approach ("survey system" below). The
PERL programming is complex and requires significant computer skills (I was
lucky enough to have an experienced programmer to assist me).
You can try her survey here:
enter "surveytest" as the userid.
Jean Schensul ([log in to unmask]) wrote the following.
I believe that William Hansen was working on an internet-based version of a
program for entering egonet data. You can find his organization, a
prevention research center called Tanglewood Research, Greensborough NC, on
I tried calling Bill Hansen and no one from his organization ever called
back. I gave up after two phone calls. The software did look like it had
potential, and it may be worth another follow-up (thanks in any case Jean!).
Vogenbeck, Danielle ([log in to unmask]) said the following:
Hi Stephen - at RAND we are tackling the problem of gathering network data
online. I believe one of our programmers is working on a tool that he might
try to put out in the public space eventually. My experience is that a
number of people have done this (reported in a lot of papers), however no
one has made their programs public (yet). It seems to me that each project
has written its own program to do this kind of thing, both for ego-centric
and whole networks.
If you find programs that are publicly available, I'd be interested in
hearing about it. I made a bunch of calls and inquiries in the last month,
to no avail.
Hopefully, we'll get something out there in the next couple months that can
help us figure out how to do this.
Good luck, Danielle
Danielle's experience was very similar to mine obviously!
Finally, quite by luck, I was introduced to a survey software called the
Survey System (www.surveysystem.com). This system allows for survey "piping"
(the recall of previously inputted names – critical for egonet research),
has a sophisticated internet interface, allows for password access (broad,
or specific to each user) and can be learned relatively easily – I have done
all the survey design and programming myself. There are several drawbacks
however. It has to be lodged on up-to-date Windows-based servers. It is
expensive (~ $2500 per license, they do not currently have a student or
academic rate). It requires an extensive investment of learning time.
Finally, the egonet analysis and setup is cumbersome, not nearly as simple
or elegant as Chris McCarty's egonet program.
Feel free to contact me with any further questions or issues. I can send a
password for a test if you wish to try it out
Best, Stephen Bird.
[log in to unmask]
Dept. of Political Science, Boston University
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