• Class Number 6222
  • Term Code 3360
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Robert Ackland
    • Dr Robert Ackland
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/07/2023
  • Class End Date 27/10/2023
  • Census Date 31/08/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 31/07/2023
SELT Survey Results

The Internet is increasingly a source of data for social science research and this course provides students with training in online research methods for social research, with an emphasis on quantitative methods. The course focuses on unobtrusive/non-reactive methods involving socially-generated digital trace data (networks and text) from sources such as websites, social networking sites such as Facebook, microblogs such as Twitter and discussion environments such as Reddit. In this computer-lab based course, students will gain an introduction to coding and will undertake social network analysis and quantitative text analysis using the R statistical software. There is also an overview of obtrusive/reactive social research methods, including both quantitative methods (online surveys, online experiments) and qualitative methods (online focus groups and interviews, online field research).

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. compare online research methods to methods traditionally used by social scientists;
  2. undertake basic coding using the R statistical software;
  3. collect digital trace data and conduct basic social network and text analysis;
  4. locate available tools and data for online research; and
  5. understand the advantages and disadvantages of various online research methods, and their ethical implications.

Required Resources

In 2022 (for the first time since this course started), the computer lab classes will not be run using ANU Information Commons (IC) computers (either physical or virtual). We will use the computer lab space for the hybrid computer lab classes, but the instructor and students will be required to use their own laptops or PCs in order to undertake the lab class activity and any associated assessment. Prof Ackland will explain the reason for this in the first class. So, to participate in this course you need to have your own laptop (if you are attending the hybrid computer labs on campus) or PC otherwise, and install: R/RStudio, additional R packages, and Gephi for network visualisation. These are free and open source software. Instructions for installation will be provided on the wattle site.

Whether you are on campus or studying remotely, there are a variety of online platforms you will use to participate in your study program. These could include videos for lectures and other instruction, two-way video conferencing for interactive learning, email and other messaging tools for communication, interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities, print and/or photo/scan for handwritten work and drawings, and home-based assessment.

ANU outlines recommended student system requirements to ensure you are able to participate fully in your learning. Other information is also available about the various Learning Platforms you may use.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lecture: Introduction to course; Online research methods, digital trace data, and networksLab: Introduction to R and RStudio, Introduction to SNA using VOSONDash
2 Lecture: Social network analysis - 1: What is a social network, types of networksLab: Introduction to SNA using R/igraph
3 Lecture: Social network analysis - 2: Basic SNA metrics; MicroblogsLab: Twitter network analysis; Social media data collection
4 Lecture: Social network analysis – 3: Clustering and homophily in networks; Threaded conversation networksLab: Reddit network analysis; Social media data collection (cont.)
5 Lecture: Introduction to content analysisLab: Analysing clustering and homophily; Network visualisation using Gephi A1 submitted
6 Lecture: Introduction to content analysis (cont.); Digital trace data research ethicsLab: Introduction to tidytext (word frequencies, word clouds, comparison clouds)
7 Lecture: Sentiment analysis; Web scraping and hyperlink networksLab: Introduction to quanteda
8 Lecture: Word co-occurrence and semantic network analysisLab: Sentiment analysis; Collecting WWW hyperlink data
9 Lecture: Online surveysLab: Discourse and frame analysis via semantic networks A2 submitted
10 Lecture: Virtual worldsLab: Collecting and analysing website text content
11 Lecture: Bots, trolls and coordinated inauthentic behaviourLab: Advanced topics in network/text analysis; project (A3) work
12 Lecture: Web experimentsLab: Advanced topics in network/text analysis; project (A3) work
13 Examination period A3 submitted

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value
Basic social network analysis 20 %
Data collection, SNA and text analysis 40 %
Project (combining methods) 40 %

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 

Basic social network analysis

word limit: 1200 words

Assessment Task 2

Value: 40 %
Learning Outcomes: 

Data collection, SNA and text analysis

word limit: 2400 words

Assessment Task 3

Value: 40 %
Learning Outcomes: 

Project (combining methods)

word limit: 2400 words

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Returning Assignments

Via Wattle Turnitin submission.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Students are not able to resubmit assignments once they have been marked, but Turnitin similarity checking will be available prior to final submission.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Robert Ackland
6125 0312

Research Interests

Dr Robert Ackland

By Appointment
Dr Robert Ackland
6125 0312

Research Interests

Dr Robert Ackland

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions