Vast amounts of digital data are now generated daily by people as they go about their lives, yet social researchers are struggling to exploit it. At the same time, the challenges faced by society in the 21st century are growing ever more complex, and demands research that is bigger in scale, more collaborative and multi-disciplinary than ever before. This cutting-edge volume provides an accessible introduction to innovative digital social research tools and methods that harness this ‘data deluge’ and successfully tackle key research challenges. Contributions from leading international researchers cover topics such as:  • Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research  • Data management  • Social media and social network analysis  • Modeling and simulation  • Survey methods  • Visualizing social data  • Ethics and e-research  • The future of social research in the digital age This vibrant introduction to innovative digital research methods is essential reading for anyone conducting social research today.

Exploiting New Sources of Data

Mark ElliotKingsley Purdam

3.1 Introduction

In this chapter we explore a series of case study examples of innovative research design, uses of new types of data, data combination and analysis, and the opportunities and challenges they present for social science research. We are not primarily concerned here with data generation processes such as synthetic data production or simulation. Our focus is on methods and approaches for analysing and combining data rather than methods for creating data, although we acknowledge that such a boundary can be artificial.

As discussed in Chapter 2, data for researching human activity, decisions, preferences and behaviour are being collected and collated as people go about their daily lives. Increasingly, the default setting for a citizen in the information ...

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