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Measuring networks in the field

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2019

Jennifer M. Larson
Political Science Department, Vanderbilt University, College of Arts and Science, Nashville, TN US
Janet I. Lewis
Political Science Department, US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD US
E-mail address:


Measuring networks in the field—usually by asking individuals systematically about their networks–entails complex design choices, with large consequences for the resulting data. Because observations in a network are interconnected, well-established practices from non-network survey settings can lead researchers astray. Despite the increasing focus on networks in political science, little guidance is available for researchers facing high-stakes decisions when designing a study to elicit networks. This paper serves as a practical guide. It offers a simple framework for constructing a network theory, illuminates tradeoffs like measuring more nodes versus more ties per node or asking for names versus selections from a list, and proposes a new technique for cleaning relational data.

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Copyright © The European Political Science Association 2019 

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