The problems you raise are present in many kinds of organizational research, but are especially bad when you are studying perceived networks. Like you said, you are asking people to "name names." I have found that even if people are not formally educated about networks, they have a pretty good sense that you are asking them for possibly sensitive "insider" information. If they question your motives or trustworthiness they will not cooperate, and you seem to recognize this already.
In my experience, the main reasons people resist are: (1) they are worried that the data/results might be used specifically against them somehow, (2) they fear that the data/results will be distributed selectively to benefit an adversary, and (3) they see no reason to spend the time/effort required to answer your questions. So you try to structure your procedures in ways that address these concerns.
In the US, the human subjects laws and regulations help a lot with item 1 (Ich weiss nicht die Situation in Deutschland). I make it a big point to tell participants about how the university monitors research, and that my project had to undergo formal review to guard against risk to participants. I find that people are reassured to hear that you have actually thought about how the results could be misused and that you have taken steps to prevent this.
I'm afraid the other factors are going to be more situational and mostly require good negotiating skills. For example, in my dissertation research (way back when!), I studied two organizations. In one of them (public works department) I was viewed with suspicion because of labor/management tensions. To resolve the issues, I agreed to give the union a copy of the results (item 2), and got management to give workers an extra 30 minute break to do the survey (item 3). So I got my data.
Organizational climate is also a factor. In my other organization (a high-tech lab) I was viewed as more of a harmless nuisance and I had to make no special provisions. Yet it was the same study, questions, procedures and researcher.
So perceived networks in organizations are simply challenging phenomena to study. You need to pick your organizations carefully, have some good luck, and be skillful in resolving participants' concerns.
Steven R. (Steve) Corman
Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Arizona State University
From: Markus Zmija [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2002 1:03 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: data acquisition
a few months ago I have started to explore the
field of social network analysis and I'm really
fascinated. I'm mainly interested in the analysis of
organisations, especially enterprises.
But I wonder how to collect the data in such
an organisational environment. I think it must
be quite difficult to get the required information,
in particular if it concerns trust-based and friendship relations.
Wouldn't the asked/interviewed people be afraid
that the information given by them is used for
purposes, which do not suit to them?
Does somebody know about literature or web pages
related to this topic. Or - even better - can someone
send me his experience how to create a trustful
climate in which reliable and useful data can be
I'm looking forward to receiving your feedback.
on the Web: www.markus-zmija.de
email: [log in to unmask]