Egocentric Network Analysis

Article published: 21.07.2020

When collecting egocentric network data, visual representations of networks can function as a cognitive aid for depicting relationships, helping to maintain an overview of the relationships, and keeping the attention of the interviewees. Additionally, network maps can serve as a narration generator in qualitative and in mixed-methods studies. The article provides an overview of existing visually oriented tools that are used to collect egocentric networks and discusses their functions, advantages, and limitations. It further presents an experimental study where four different visual tools are compared with regard to networks elicited, manageability, and the impact of follow-up questions. The results provide evidence that the decision in favor of a specific visual tool (structured vs. unstructured) can affect the size and composition of the elicited networks. ...

... Follow-up questions greatly affect the elicited networks and follow-up cues can level out differences among tools. Respondents tend to prefer the concentric circles tool, with some differences in preferences and manageability of tools between participants with low and those with high socioeconomic status. Finally, assets and drawbacks of the four instruments are discussed with regard to data quality and crucial aspects of the data collection process when using visual tools.

Betina Hollstein, Tom Töpfer, Jürgen Pfeffer (2020): Collecting egocentric network data with visual tools: A comparative study. Network Science 8(2): 223–250 (ungated).

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