Institute for Web Science and Technologies · Universität Koblenz - Landau
Institute WeST
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Seminar "Social Science Methodology in Web Science Research"

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Winter Term 2015 / 2016

Seminar: Social Science Methodology in Web Science Research


This course covers various (social) scientific approaches to internet research / web science. The main aim is to provide students with a better understanding of methodology and epistemology: Which questions can be answered employing which methods? How can we gain scientific insights and further our knowledge about the web and society using internet data (e.g. data gathered from social media)? Social science approaches will be covered as well as the philosophical underpinnings of a science of the web – but always applied to actual projects and concrete questions. Students will be enabled to independently plan, execute and assess (empirical) studies.


Is it possible to predict election results based on Twitter data? Are Facebook friendships online, offline or both? Questions like these are what we will address in the seminar. An overview will be given of various social science methods that are being employed in studies of the Web. We will cover the differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches (and were their application is most useful). We will also look at the difference between generating your own data and using data others have produced, such as user-generated content on social media. The seminar aims to clarify and further the understanding of the scientific and philosophical foundations on which we base insights about the Web (and those insights gained using Web data). An understanding of these foundations allows the planning and implementation of own research projects. An overview of current challenges but also of new chances and possibilities in web science research will be given. The seminar is conceptualized as an advanced course on scientific methods. The course is especially useful to students who plan to work with social media data in their Bachelor or Masters theses or who are interested in interdisciplinary approaches.


  11.12.2015, 12:00-14:00

  Introduction / Choice of topic for presentation and essay

  05.02.2016, 10:00-17:00

  Methods / Researcher-generated data

  11.02.2016, 10:00-17:00

  Methods / User-generated content

  Ethical & Legal questions

  12.02.2016, 10:00-14:00

  Epistemology & Methodology

  Guest lecture

  19.02.2016, 10:00-12:00

  Optional drop-in session / Ask your essay questions


Participants are required to give one presentation (20 minutes). After the seminar a short essay (max. 6 pages) is to be submitted that elaborates on the presentation topic. Topics for the presentation and the essay will be chosen in the introductory meeting, so that you are required to attend this meeting. Depending on the number of participants there may be team presentations.