Eliciting representative samples of personal networks

C. McCarty, H. R. Bernard, P. D. Killworth, G. A. Shelley, E. C. Johnsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


In this paper we introduce and evaluate a method for eliciting a representative sample of total personal networks. First names were used as a cue to elicit a sample of 14 alters from 712 respondents through a telephone interview. Network characteristics for each respondent were calculated as averages and proportions across the 14 alters. These were compared to other studies using more specialized network generators. Our method produced results which are logically consistent with those expected from a generator that elicits a sample from the total rather than a specialized subset of the total network. The proportions of kin relations, average tie strength and frequency of contacts are found to be lower than network generators designed to elicit networks of social support. Given our conclusion that the sample is representative of the total network, we examine the varying characteristics of respondents and their networks based on the domination of a particular relation type in their network. This analysis provides answers to such questions as 'What characteristics of respondents account for the proportion of family relations in their network?' and 'What are the similarities between respondents whose networks are made up of mostly work-related relations?'

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-323
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Networks
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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