Sarah Shugars, Ph.D. Candidate

Northeastern University

Country: United States (Massachusetts)

About Me:

Sarah is a computational social scientist, using network analysis and natural language processing to study political dialogue and deliberation. Her research focuses on developing a network methodology for deliberation; modeling the way an individual reasons as a network of interconnected ideas and studying deliberation as process in which groups exchange ideas and collectively create new solutions. A doctoral candidate in Northeastern's Network Science program, she received her BA cum laude in Physics from Clark University and her MA in Integrated Marketing Communications from Emerson College. She currently serves as senior editor for the Good Society: The Journal of Civic Studies and she worked at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life for nearly a decade. 

Research Interests

Political Communication

Public Opinion

Political Participation

Research Methods & Research Design

Text as Data

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

A functional democracy demands the sound reasoning of its citizens. Efforts to strengthen democratic regimes must therefore include an understanding of the everyday political conversations through which average citizens formulate their own views, exchange factual and normative information, and reason together about matters of common concern. These conversations generate public opinion and build democratic legitimacy, yet they are not well understood. When forming political opinions, how do people navigate their own values and interpret the beliefs of others? How do people reason together -- or fail to reason together -- to identify workable solutions to complex social problems? These questions get to the very core of political behavior, to the localized mechanisms through which people attempt to identify and address their collective challenges.My research develops an empirical framework aimed at understanding of how average citizens express their political views, interpret the views of others, and reason together through everyday political conversations. This reasoning process is fundamentally networked in nature:when speaking with others, we raise ideas that seem connected to what they said; when thinking to ourselves, we move from idea to connected idea; and when assessing a complex issue, we weigh the pros and cons as well as their interconnections in order to arrive at a final judgment. To address these questions, then, I develop theoretically grounded network methods and measures for individual and small group political reasoning.