reseaux_fiches_scott_1987_extraits.doc

To study this process lee contacted abortionists and

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To study this process, Lee contacted abortionists and women who had had recent experience of an abortion. In constructing her sample she was, interestingly, having to use information search techniques which were similar to those used by the women themselves. Like Granovetter, she used a mixture of interviews and questionnaires to gather her data. Having explored various aspects of their life and social background and their attitudes towards conception and abortion, Lee turned to an examination of their search for an abortionist. The search involved the making of informed guesses about who might be able to help, either by providing the name of an abortionist or mentioning a further contact who might help. Lee found that women approached an average of 5.8 people before successfully contacting an abortionist the actual numbers of contacts ranging from 1 to 31. A number of the contacts, of course, were 'dead ends', and the 'successful chains' varied in length from one to seven steps, the average length being 2.8. [37] Over three-quarters of the successful chains involved two or fewer intermediaries (Lee, 1969: Chapter 5). Contacts tended 14
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not to be relatives or those in authority (employers, teachers etc.), and the most important channels were female friends of the same age. Both Granovetter and Lee explored network processes through the use of simple frequency tabulations, making only qualitative comments on the structure of the network relations that they discovered. Indeed, Lee argued that it is extremely difficult to trace the structure of overlapping personal networks in large-scale systems. Their studies were, however, important as outgrowths of and contributors to the systematic and analytical development of social network analysis. Their studies showed the power of even the most basic of social network methods, and they suggested an immense power for the more rigorous techniques being developed by their Harvard colleagues. The power of social network analysis has become apparent in its use as an orientating idea and specific body of methods. But the application of formal mathematical ideas to the study of social networks has encouraged some writers to suggest that social network analysis offers the basis for a new theory of social structure. Barnes and Harary (1983), for example, have argued that it is possible to advance from the use of formal concepts to the use of formal theory. They argue that the promise of social network analysis can be realized only if researchers move beyond the use of formal concepts for purely descriptive purposes (see also Granovetter, 1979). Mathematics consists of theorems which specify the determinate logical links between formal concepts. Barnes and Harary argue that if the formal concepts prove to be useful ways of organizing relational data, then the theorems too should be applicable to those data. The application of theorems drawn from formal mathematics, then, 'reveals real world implications of the model that might otherwise have not been noticed or utilized by the designer of the model' (Barnes and Harary, 1983: 239).
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