Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Gary Miron, Ph.D.
Ya Zhang, Ph.D.
June Gothberg, Ph.D.
Exploratory research, qualitative methods, Reddit, sampling error, social media data, teacher resignation
This dissertation is comprised of three separate studies related to using the social media platform Reddit for social science research. The first paper provides an overview of current social science research that uses Reddit. The second paper explores the impact of sampling choices and potential sources of error when selecting Reddit data to study. The third paper maps the topics of a sample of posts tagged with the #Resignation flair in the r/Teachers subreddit from three months across school year 2021-2022 including reasons why teachers are leaving the post-pandemic classroom.
The practice of using Reddit for social science research is increasing, yet many social science researchers still know little about the possibilities available to them. This first paper reviewed 169 social science articles published in 2021 that used Reddit in their research. Reddit was primarily used for data collection and subject recruitment. The majority of researchers using Reddit for data collection are using qualitative methods for analysis. The review showed that the anonymity of Reddit makes it an especially appropriate platform choice for conducting exploratory research, especially on hard-to-reach populations and/or stigmatizing topics. Reddit was also shown to be successful as part of a broader recruitment strategy, especially to find participants from hard-to-reach populations.
The second paper explores trace selection error by examining the results of an inductive content analysis performed on samples from the (i) top most upvoted and (ii) top most commented-on posts. These samples were compared with the universe of all responses. Differences between the samples and the universe were more apparent in what people said than how people were saying it. The sample of top most upvoted posts provided a closer representation of the topic map of the universe than the top most commented-on sample, though both methods produced holes in the topic map showing preliminary indications that these methods may not work well for achieving full topic coverage. Wide variability in how researchers report their methodologies indicates a need for reporting norms for articles utilizing Reddit; this would acknowledge and help ensure proper attention to potential sources of error in research designs. A checklist to begin creating such guidelines is presented.
The third paper utilized a hybrid approach to the Big Data Process. Data science skills were used to scrape #Resignation flair posts from the r/Teachers subreddit and qualitative methods were used to analyze the data. It was found that teachers weigh the costs and benefits of teaching and reach a breaking point where they decide to put themselves first before they quit. The reasons teachers gave for leaving fell into three main categories: Tolls of the Job, Bad Environment, and Issues with the Profession. The most frequently cited reasons for leaving were issues with students, bad administrators, and poor/declining mental health.
This dissertation represents a hybrid approach to the Big Data Process which uses data science skills for data collection and social science skills for analysis and lays the foundation for other social science researchers to do the same in their fields.
Davidson, Caryn, "Use of Reddit for Social Science Research: A Review of Current Use, Exploration of Potential Sampling Error, and Practical Demonstration Using Reddit to Study Post-Pandemic Teacher Resignation" (2023). Dissertations. 3936.