Social Science Research Methods in Internet Time

19 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2011

See all articles by David A. Karpf

David A. Karpf

Rutgers University, School of Communication

Date Written: September 16, 2011


This paper discusses three interrelated challenges related to conducting social science research in “Internet Time.” The rate at which the Internet is both diffusing through society and also developing new capacities is unprecedented. It creates some novel challenges for scholarly research. Many of our most robust research methods are based upon ceteris paribus assumptions that do not hold in the online environment. The rate of change online narrows the range of questions that can be answered using traditional tools. Meanwhile, new research methods are untested and often rely upon data sources that are incomplete and systematically flawed. The paper details these challenges, then proposes that scholars embrace the values of transparency and kludginess in order to answer important research questions in a rapidly-changing communications environment.

Keywords: internet research methods, web 2.0, blogosphere, twitter

Suggested Citation

Karpf, David A., Social Science Research Methods in Internet Time (September 16, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

David A. Karpf (Contact Author)

Rutgers University, School of Communication ( email )

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New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States
401-559-1106 (Phone)


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