Social Capital Research Students

Social capital is a popular research topic for undergraduate and postgraduate research students. Social capital lends itself very well to application to a very wide range of social phenomenon.

I have been contacted by hundreds of research students from all around the world in the last few years for advice on their projects. This has prompted me to compile this section of the website to provide a guide to anyone interested in conducting a research project on social capital.

Qualitative or Quantitative?

It is important to determine your theoretical framework very early to allow you to design a suitably rigorous research project. Unfortunately there has been a lot of research conducted and published that has a very poor connection between theory and practice. There are hundreds of peer reviewed journal articles published over the last decade or so that blindly apply social capital to some context. I urge you to not make the same mistake. I hope you will carefully consider the theoretical basis for your research and choose an appropriate methodology.

Many people fall into the trap of designing quantitative social capital research because that is what they are used to or what their supervisor/s are used to. More care is required though to make sure that quantitative methodology is going to provide the data required to answer the research question/s.

Take the following research question:

How does social capital increase the likelihood of success for small start-up enterprises?

This question would be very difficult to answer with quantitative data analysis because a survey would not give much information about ‘how’. The questionnaire could ask questions about this issue, but would likely prescribe the outcome making the research self fulfilling. For example:

To what extent do you think trust with your existing business contacts will help the success of your enterprise?

Most respondents will see the logic of this and answer it accordingly, regardless of whether there is actually benefits for their enterprise to be had from the trust found in their social networks. Even so it is not providing with you with data about ‘how’.

Alternatively if you were conducting qualitative research it may be very easy to get information about ‘how’ by simply interviewing the business owners.

Generally speaking social capital is much more suited to qualitative research as it allows the complexity of the research context to emerge and be understood by the researcher. You will however have to put in more thought and consideration than simply choosing a qualitative methodology. You must consider the theoretical perspective that governs the research context and the way in which you will analyse it.


11 thoughts on “Social Capital Research Students”

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    I Want to formulate a Research question regarding sustainable management of Traditional social capital of a tribe/community but I don’t know how ? Please advice me.

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      Tristan Claridge

      Hi R.Welly, you would need to start by identifying the problem and then defining the definition of traditional social capital and what it would mean for it to be sustainably managed.

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    Thank you so much for the information about social capital. This has greatly helped me. I am currently working on my phd proposal. I want to assess the effectiveness of the network model in the advocacy work against illicit financial flows from the extractive sector. I want to ground my project within the social capital literature. Do you have any suggestions or help for me.

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    Hi Sir ” I am working on the topic “The impact of social capital on purchase intention ”
    I have some confusion in the Research methodology section.
    i am taking sampling unit of 4 groups(religious,political,ngo,health,)
    sampling technique: stratified(proportionate)
    sample size: 500
    is the the right way?
    kindly assist

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      It’s hard to answer that question without more information. What theoretical link between social capital and purchase intention are you exploring? Do you mean normative influence rather than social capital?

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        Thanks for replying sir”
        I am working on the topic “The impact of social capital on purchase intention with mediating influence from wom and brand image ”
        Following are the objectives of research:
        (1) To analyze the impact of social capital on purchase intention
        (2) To study the mediating effect of WOM on the relation between social capital and purchase intention
        (3) To study the mediating effect of Brand Image on the relation between social capital and purchase intention
        (4) To study the relationship between social capital and Brand image
        (5) To study the relationship between social capital and word of mouth
        i have taken 6 dimensions of working capital (trust, rules and norms, voluntarism , group characteristics, social interaction , SNS )
        is my Research Methodology appropriate????????
        Sampling unit: 4 groups (religious,ngo,political, government officials)
        Sampling technique: Stratified sampling
        Sample size :500
        Research instrument: Questionnaire

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          How will you analyse your data such that you meet your research objectives? Assuming you are using a survey instrument to measure individual social capital and purchase intention, then are you able to gain an understanding of the impact of social capital on purchase intention or are you only able to identify correlation without evidence of causality? You must ensure that your data analysis will meet all your research objectives.

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            Dear Sir ,
            We are measuring causality. We will apply structure equation modelling because we are considering wom and brand image as mediating variables

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      There are many different approaches to social capital and several different options for methodology. It will depend on your discipline, your context of interest, and your epistemological stance. Mixed methods are popular in social capital research.

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