Facebook as a Research Tool for the Social Sciences: Opportunities, Challenges, Ethical Considerations, and Practical Guidelines

Facebook as a Research Tool for the Social Sciences: Opportunities, Challenges, Ethical Considerations, and Practical Guidelines

By
Michal Kosinski, Sandra C. Matz, Samuel D. Gosling, Vesselin Popv, David Stillwell
American Psychologist. September
2015, Vol. 70, Issue 6, Pages 543-556

Facebook is rapidly gaining recognition as a powerful research tool for the social sciences. It constitutes a large and diverse pool of participants, who can be selectively recruited for both online and offline studies. Additionally, it facilitates data collection by storing detailed records of its users’ demographic profiles, social interactions, and behaviors. With participants’ consent, these data can be recorded retrospectively in a convenient, accurate, and inexpensive way. Based on our experience in designing, implementing, and maintaining multiple Facebook-based psychological studies that attracted over 10 million participants, we demonstrate how to recruit participants using Facebook, incentivize them effectively, and maximize their engagement. We also outline the most important opportunities and challenges associated with using Facebook for research, provide several practical guidelines on how to successfully implement studies on Facebook, and finally, discuss ethical considerations.