Mario L. Small, Ph.D., is Grafstein Family Professor at Harvard University. MoreCV

Personal Networks in Practice

This project is developing an approach to network analysis in which context, not just structure, is central. In qualitative and survey-based studies across multiple settings---from parents in daycare centers to students in Ph.D. programs---it examines how network processes are shaped by their organizational embeddedness, by people's decisions, or both. A major focus is understanding the epistemological implications of shifting attention from the structure of the network to the decisions of the individual. Forthcoming works include a decision-process theory of how people mobilize their networks, a Cambridge U Press collection on ego network analysis with more than 50 contributors, and a new book series on the mechanisms behind network processes. [NETWORKS] 

Large-Scale Data and Urban Inequality

This project uses large-scale administrative data from Twitter, Google Maps, and other sources to understand urban poverty and racial inequality. It tests hypotheses derived from field observations and interviews about how depopulation, de-institutionalization, and other neighborhood conditions affect people’s capacities and wellbeing. In collaborations with engineers, spatial analysts, and others outside sociology, the project seeks to build on the interdisciplinary promise of “big data” for the study of inequality. Recent works include a set of studies on racial segregation and everyday mobility based on millions of geotagged tweets, and an analysis of racial inequality in neighborhood access to financial institutions based on millions of travel queries. [URBAN]

Qualitative Research for a Scientific Era

This project aims to raise the standards of qualitative research and improve both researchers’ and the public’s “qualitative literacy”—the ability to read and interpret qualitative evidence effectively. The central challenge behind the project is to develop standards for ethnographic and interview-based research that is scientifically cumulative but nonetheless leans into its strengths, rather than emulating quantitative methods. The project aims to improve scholars', policy makers', and journalists' qualitative literacy, an element of democracy essential to countering political polarization. Forthcoming works include a study on reliability in in-depth interview data, and a book on how to evaluate qualitative research. [METHODS]