Ella Guest


The role of moderators and user-contributors in the development of community norms on Reddit.

PhD summary

Reddit is a social media platform consisting of distinct interest-based communities called subreddits. The official site administrators only enforce a small set of standards of behaviour across the platform. For the most part, each subreddit is allowed to develop a unique understanding of what content and behaviours are allowed and/or encouraged within its space. I am interested in how these subreddit-specific community norms develop over time. Particularly, I am focused on the roles of volunteer moderators and non-moderating user-contributors in this process, and the relationships between these stakeholder groups and Reddit's official admins.
I am currently comparing two subreddits which vary greatly in both content and form: r/The_Donald and r/ChangeMyView. r/The_Donald is a community for supporters of US President Donald Trump to share content in favour of Trump. On r/ChangeMyView users post an opinion they hold and ask others to attempt to persuade them to change their opinion. In comparison, the two subreddits highlight a wide range of choices subreddit communities must make, implicitly or explicitly, in defining the norms of their space. Drawing upon social network analysis and text analysis techniques I am seeking to determine whether these variations can be reliably identified using quantitative methods and, thus, how other communities can also be analysed on a larger scale.

My research touches upon the following questions:

  • How do subreddit community norms form and develop over time?
  • To what extent are subreddit members active in the development of community norms?
  • How does the relationship between subreddit moderators and non-moderating members affect the validity of community norms?
  • How does the relationship between Reddit admins and subreddit moderators affect moderation roles?
  • How does the pseudonymous nature of Reddit affect the researcher’s consideration of Reddit users as individuals?


September 2016 – September 2019


NWDTC +3 studentship


I completed my undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh before coming to the University of Manchester to do my MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics.


Contact details

Office: G45 Humanities Bridgeford Street
Email: ella.guest@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk