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Web Social Science

Web Social Science
Concepts, Data and Tools for Social Scientists in the Digital Age

June 2013 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"Although written simply enough to be accessible to undergraduates, accomplished scholars are likely to appreciate it too. Reading it taught me quite a lot about a subject I thought I knew rather well."
- Paul Vogt, Illinois State University

"This book brings the art and science of building and applying innovative online research tools to students and faculty across the social sciences."
- William H. Dutton, University of Oxford

A comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of web Social Science. This book demonstrates how the web is being used to collect social research data, such as online surveys and interviews, as well as digital trace data from social media environments, such as Facebook and Twitter. It also illuminates how the advent of the web has led to traditional social science concepts and approaches being combined with those from other scientific disciplines, leading to new insights into social, political and economic behaviour.

Situating social sciences in the digital age, this book aids:

  • understanding of the fundamental changes to society, politics and the economy that have resulted from the advent of the web
  • choice of appropriate data, tools and research methods for conducting research using web data
  • learning how web data are providing new insights into long-standing social science research questions
  • appreciation of how social science can facilitate an understanding of life in the digital age

It is ideal for students and researchers across the social sciences, as well as those from information science, computer science and engineering who want to learn about how social scientists are thinking about and researching the web.

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Online Research Methods
Dimensions and Modes of Online Research

Online Surveys

Online Interviews and Focus Groups

Web Content Analysis

Social Media Network Analysis

Online Experiments

Online Field Research

Digital Trace Data: Ethics

Chapter 3. Social Media Networks
Social Networks: Concepts and Definitions

Social Network Analysis

Social Media Networks

Social Networks, Information Networks and Communication Networks

SNA Metrics for the Example School Friendship Network (advanced)

Chapter 4. Hyperlink Networks
Hyperlink Networks: Background

Three Disciplinary Perspectives on Hyperlink Networks

Tools for Hyperlink Network Research

Chapter 5. Friendship Formation and Social Influence
Homophily in Friendship Formation

Social Influence

Chapter 6. Organisational Collective Behaviour
Collective Behaviour on the Web: Background

Collective Action and Public Goods

Networked Social Movements

Chapter 7. Politics and Participation
Visibility of Political Information

Social and Political Engagement

Political Homophily

An Introduction to Power Laws (advanced)

Chapter 8. Government and Public Policy
Delivery of Information to Citizens

Government Authority

Public Policy Modelling

Chapter 9. Production and Collaboration
Peer Production and Information Public Goods

Scholarly Activity and Communication

Network Structure and Achievement

Chapter 10. Commerce and Marketing
Distribution of Product Sales

Influence in Markets


Ackland's Web Social Science is unique in being specifically designed for social science researchers. Although written simply enough to be accessible to undergraduates, accomplished scholars are likely to appreciate it too. Reading it taught me quite a lot about a subject I thought I knew rather well.

Paul Vogt
Emeritus Professor of Research Methods and Evaluation, Illinois State University

A rare and timely entry to the growing body of quantitative Internet research. While most other works on the topic are written by and for scientists, this book represents a social science approach that is more accessible and applicable, with more attention to preparation, processing and interpretation of real-world data. Though primarily for readers in social science, business studies, policy analysts, and alike, the book blends traditional social science and emerging web science into a unique handbook of Internet research.

Jonathan J. H. Zhu
Professor of Media and Communication and Founding Director of Web Mining Lab, City University of Hong Kong

Brings the art and science of building and applying innovative online research tools to students and faculty across the social sciences.

William H. Dutton
Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Provides excellent chapters on how to study the Web from a social science research perspective. Although there are many books on theorizing the Internet and the Web, few tackle hands-on research issues. This two-part book (divided into a methods section and example studies) covers a wide range of research designs, tools and data types from many different social science perspectives (psychology, sociology, media studies, political studies and network science among others). Highly recommended for social science studies that want to use the Web to study social phenomena (the Web as a tool) and media studies that focus on the Web itself as a research object.

Maurice Vergeer
Radboud University Nijmegen

This book combines the technical terms with the social science perspective and some important topics in daily life related to private life, organisational, political and economic activities. It is appropriate for scientists and students in different areas – social, engineering, economic – every area that uses web for informing, promoting, exerting social influence and conducting studies.

Stanislava Yordanova Stoyanova

The benefit-and the challenge- of this ambitious volume is that the author considers not only how web data are providing new insights into existing social science research questions, but also how social science can contribute to an understanding of life in the digital era...Overall, Ackland has much to offer researchers seeking to conduct Web social science research: in both the methods section and a section composed of concrete, useful examples, he examines varied research designs, tools and data types from diverse social science perspectives. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and research/faculty.

A.I. Piper
New College of Florida

As a relative novice to web-based social research, I have been searching for a book that explains the concepts and different methodologies in accessible language; gives examples demonstrating the practical application of web methods; and does not neglect academic rigour and ethics. This one ticks all those boxes…Ackland’s book is comprehensive and, despite the technical topic, easy to read and understand. The book is particularly valuable for those new to web social science, while it will serve as a handy reference for those with experience in the field.

Christine Bertram, research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies
SRA Research Matters

An innovative book that is helpful for understanding new research questions on the impact of online networks and Internet use. This book can easily convince the reader of the importance of Internet-related research topics [and] it is a textbook that all students in social sciences would be able to read.

Thierry Penard
Economic Record - The Economic Society of Australia

This book provides a comprehensive overview of the web social science. The introduction is simple and well situates the web, cyberspace and online social networks within the domain of social sciences. Particularly, the chapter on social media networks is comprehensive and useful for students to obtain an understanding of various aspects of social networks. The chapters under the section II provide ample examples of web social science from different contexts.

Mr Dilan Tharindu Rathnayake
Strathclyde Business School, Strathclyde University
June 12, 2022

It´s a really interesting book, for Social Investigators as it is very updated and refers to new digital methodologies.
The book includes aspects related with creation and collection of data trough web, as well as aspects related with analysis, including cualitative and quantitative methodology, so it is a very complete and recomended book.
It includes a 2nd part with a lot of web social science examples, that are really useful for students and all level social investigators.

Dr Marian Ispizua
Sociology, Universidad del Pams Vasco
February 24, 2015

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781849204828
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