The description of name generators and interpreters above assumes the research is primarily interested in capturing members of a network, which will be elaborated with details about those specific people and relationships. However, an alternative approach does not focus on the particular individuals to whom one is connected, and instead focuses on identifying the characteristics those alters possess, which ego has available to them. “Position generator” questions (Lin, Cook, and Burt 2001) typically take the form of identifying whether (and how many of) the people ego has in their network who occupy certain roles (e.g., lawyer, teacher, etc.), while “resource generators” identify potential access to specific resources (e.g., alters who would provide ego with a financial loan, could help them move, etc.).36 These types of questions provide a common means for assessing how networks can provide access to the resources that underpin one formulation of social capital (Lin, Cook, and Burt 2001). For example, while we know the benefits of combining close ties and acquaintances in personal networks, Bonnie Erickson has conducted a series of studies employing a range of position generator questions to also show the benefits of diverse positions and resources available to ego within their personal network (for a summary see Erickson 2003).
Similarly styled questions have increasingly also been used to estimate the frequency of certain attributes among one’s ego network, e.g., those who have been incarcerated (Zheng, Salganik, and Gelma 2006), have HIV/AIDS (Killworth et al. 1998), or other characteristics.37