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A few others have pointed out the origin of the name generator technique,
such as Coleman, Laumann and Wellman. If you are interested in Laumann's
instrument, you can find it from his journal article (in one of the
footnote). Fischer's approach is also very important and need to be
Laumann, E. O., & Pappi, F. U. (1973). New Directions in the Study of
Community Elites. American Sociological Review, 38(2), 212-230.
Fischer, C. S. (1982). To Dwell Among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and
City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
In my opinion, the "name generator",as the name describing this technique,
came to light when Burt used the "important matters" question in the General
Social Survey. Here are the three articles detailing the development of the
question, and how it was used.
Burt, R. S. (1984). Network Items in the General Social Survey. Social
Networks, 6(4), 293-339.
Burt, R. S. (1985). General Social Survey Network Items. Connections, 8,
Marsden, P. V. (1987). Core Discussion Networks of Americans. American
Sociological Review, 52(1), 122-131.
Note that some researchers (such as Fischer) prefer using multiple
questions to elicit social ties in one's personal networks than using just
one question. See Marsden (2003) and Marin and Hampton (2007) for more details.
Marsden, P. V. (2003). Interviewer effects in measuring network size using a
single name generator. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/S0378-8733(02)00009-6]. Social
Networks, 25(1), 1-16.
As you could imagine, the difference in wording (i.e. the criteria of the
personal network of interest) would lead research participants to report
different types of social ties. Comparing generated personal networks across
studies may be difficult. One of the first study that seeks to find out
whether there is any commonalty between different name generators is
Campbell and Lee (1991).
Campbell, K. E., & Lee, B. A. (1991). Name generators in surveys of personal
networks. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/0378-8733(91)90006-F]. Social Networks, 13(3),
Finally, to the original question, I think it is nice to be able to find
some benchmark from UK's Government Statistical Service, and say something
about how good your results are. But I don't think "direct" comparison is
necessary or appropriate. My main concern is the original wording of the
Strictly speaking, it is a "triple-barrel" question: it asked respondents to
recall and report three different types of social ties. And respondents only
answered the question once. If you break down the question and ask
respondents to report these three types of social ties separately (i.e.
Fischer's approach), you will definitely obtain a larger personal network
size. See Hlebec et al (2006). for an recent example.
Hlebec, V., Manfreda, K. L., & Vehovar, V. (2006). The social support
networks of internet users. New Media & Society, 8(1), 9-32.
Hope this helps,
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