Computational Methods for Communication Science| Data Is the New Oil—But How Do We Drill It? Pathways to Access and Acquire Large Data Sets in Communication Science

Daniel Possler, Sophie Bruns, Julia Niemann-Lenz


In the Internet era, many forms of human communication leave massive digital traces that could serve as a revolutionary source of empirical information. However, researchers are often faced with extensive challenges when they try to access these “big communication data.” These restrictions prevent scientific exploration and the application of new computational methods and, thus, ultimately constrain the development of the field of computational communication science (CCS). As a first step to improve scientific access to large communication data, this article systematizes the data acquisition options and outlines their specific advantages and barriers based on a qualitative interview study with 22 researchers in the field of CCS. Three overarching themes are identified that seem to determine the resulting data quality of all data collection methods. On the basis of these findings, we develop an agenda on how communication science could overcome the challenges of accessing large data sets in the future.


computational communication science, data collection, big data, API, web scraping

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