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Part I - Thinking Structurally

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 September 2023

Craig M. Rawlings
Duke University, North Carolina
Jeffrey A. Smith
Nova Scotia Health Authority
James Moody
Duke University, North Carolina
Daniel A. McFarland
Stanford University, California
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Network Analysis
Integrating Social Network Theory, Method, and Application with R
, pp. 17 - 114
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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Suggested Further Reading

General Theoretical Formulations. The theoretical foundations of social network analysis are deep, and we cannot hope to cover all pieces here. Rather, we want to highlight a handful of key pieces that have helped shape how we view the field.

Illustrative Empirical Works. Social network analysis is characterized by a tight linkage between theory and method, as researchers develop tools to solve empirical questions. As such, some of the best general network theory has been developed in the context of empirical investigations.

Blau, Peter M. 1977. Inequality and Heterogeneity: A Primitive Theory of Social Structure. New York: Free Press. (Provides the foundation for work on homophily and opportunity structure; linking social relations, interests, and the intersection social characteristics. See also CATNETs by Harrison White.)Google Scholar
Bott, Elizabeth. 1957. Family and Social Network. New York: Taylor & Francis. (A lovely examination of the effects of gender and network segregation on role performance. Foundational work for the study of family and normative pressures in networks.)Google Scholar
Castells, Manuel. 2009. The Rise of Network Society. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. (Argues that modern social life is fundamentally changed by the advent of “information and communication technologies,” which allows for the widespread globalization of networks. See also the rich literature on World Systems Theory, particularly the empirical work of Christopher Chase-Dunn and colleagues.)Google Scholar
Coleman, James S. 1994. The Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard University Press. (Attempts to build a social theory based on purposive action constrained by relational opportunities. Exemplar case of mathematical theorizing.)Google Scholar
Emirbayer, Mustafa. 1997. “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology.” American Journal of Sociology 103: 281317. (Argues that the essence of any valid model for social structure has to be relational; provides a deep foundation for network models of social life.)Google Scholar
Hinde, Robert A. 1976. “Interactions, Relationships and Social Structure.” Man 11(1): 117. (Describes primate social structures from concrete interactions up to specific relations and types of relations and roles, groups, and types of groups. Basic framework of abstraction/concreteness and units of analysis to social structure.)Google Scholar
Martin, John Levi. 2009. Social Structures. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Provides a theoretical explanation of how types of relations constrain/construct types of aggregate social structures.)Google Scholar
McPherson, J. Miller. 1983. “An Ecology of Affiliation.” American Sociological Review 48(4): 519–32. (A key work summarizing the macrostructural homophily perspective on social organization. See also McPherson and Ranger-Moore 1991 and anything by Bruce Mayhew.)Google Scholar
McPherson, J. Miller, and Ranger-Moore, James. 1991. “Evolution on a Dancing Landscape: Organizations and Networks in Dynamic Blau Space.” Social Forces 70: 1942. (See the note to McPherson 1983.)Google Scholar
Nadel, Siegfried Frederick. 1957. The Theory of Social Structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. (Presents roles as interrelated systems of social expectations and obligations.)Google Scholar
Sewell, William H. 1992. “A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation.” American Journal of Sociology 98: 129. (Integrates agency as a type of structure, drawing on insights from Giddens and Bourdieu.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmel, Georg. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. (Overview of many elemental ideas of social networks concerning relations, dyads, triads, and organizations, as well as issues of size, reciprocity, and tertius gaudens.)Google Scholar
Simmel, Georg. 2010 [1908]. Conflict and the Web of Group Affiliations. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. (Describes how overlapping social circles can be theorized and studied and how they organize in society.)Google Scholar
Somers, Margaret R. 1994. “The Narrative Constitution of Identity: A Relational and Network Approach.” Theory and Society 23: 605–49. (Offers a theoretically informed account of relational sociology and how identities are more akin to narratives and stories.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turner, Jonathan H. 1978. The Structure of Sociological Theory, 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. (A general theory reader with a rich discussion of the structural-functional roots of early role-behavior models.)Google Scholar
White, Harrison C. 1992. Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (An effort to present a synthetic theory of social structure that draws on cultural turn sociology [interactionist and sociolinguistic] and social network theories concerning roles, but with extensions to macrostructures and processes, like disciplines and network domains.)Google Scholar
Bainbridge, William Sims. 2020. The Social Structure of Online Communities. New York: Cambridge University Press. (For obvious reasons, novices often conflate social media and social networks; this work provides a clear example of how to apply deep network thinking to online communities without falling prey to computational approaches that speak only to scale and not substance.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bearman, Peter. 1997. “Generalized Exchange.” American Journal of Sociology 102: 1383–415. (Using blockmodels of kinship exchange, this paper provides a clear example of how people enact social structure, even if they cannot articulate why they do so.)Google Scholar
Gibson, David R. 2003. “Participation Shifts: Order and Differentiation in Group Conversation.” Social Forces 81: 1335–80. (Empirical example of how relational events of different sequential turn-taking strategies inform the development of roles and networks.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gould, Roger V. 1991. “Multiple Networks and Mobilization in the Paris Commune, 1871.” American Sociological Review 56(6): 716–29. (Uses data on deaths and fighting across neighborhoods and blockmodel analysis to reveal the underlying structural basis of conflict.)Google Scholar
Mizruchi, Mark S., and Schwartz, Michael (eds.). 1988. Intercorporate Relations: The Structural Analysis of Business. New York: Cambridge University Press. (A nice early edited volume on network approaches to economic action.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Padgett, John F., and Ansell, Christopher K.. 1993. “Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400–1434.” American Journal of Sociology 98(6): 1259–319. (A historical illustration of how a political system emerges out of the interactions and alliance systems of Renaissance elite family politics.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Suggested Further Reading

In addition to the general methods texts listed for Chapter 1, useful deep dives into methods discussed here include:

Gibbons, Alan. 1985. Algorithmic Graph Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press. (A classic exposition of primary algorithmic approaches to manipulating, searching, and performing search operations on network objects. While some of the routines have been superseded by newer algorithms, this publication provides basics to get anyone started in this line of work.)Google Scholar
Harary, Frank. 1969. Graph Theory. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley. (The classic work in the basics of graph theory.)Google Scholar
Kivelä, Mikko, Arenas, Alex, Barthelemy, Marc et al. 2014. “Multilayer Networks.” Journal of Complex Networks 2: 203–71. (Multilayer networks are one of the most general ways to bind multiple types of nodes and relations in a single analysis object; the approach has proven useful for both cross-context studies and unique approaches to dynamic modeling of networks.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Richards, William, and Seary, Andrew. 2000. “Eigen Analysis of Networks.” Journal of Social Structure 1(2): 117. (Eigen structures are key to many network metrics, although their use and mathematical foundations are often understudied in social sciences. This work provides a gentle introduction to what they are and why they matter.)Google Scholar

Suggested Further Reading

adams, jimi. 2019. Gathering Social Network Data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (An outstanding recent overview of network data collection strategies.)Google Scholar
Bernard, H. Russell, Killworth, Peter, Kronenfeld, David, and Sailer, Lee. 1984. “The Problem of Informant Accuracy: The Validity of Retrospective Data.” Annual Review of Anthropology 13: 495517. (This is one of a series of works that raised important questions on informant accuracy, leading to a focused research program on improving data collection quality.)Google Scholar
Birkett, Michelle, Melville, Joshua, Janulis, Patrick et al. 2021. “Network Canvas: Key Decisions in The Design of an Interviewer-Assisted Network Data Collection Software Suite.” Social Networks 66: 114–24. (A significant boon to contemporary network analysis is the ability to use graphical interface devices for data collection; Network Canvas is one such tool.)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Burt, Ronald. 1984. “Network Items and the General Social Survey.” Social Networks 6(4): 293339. (This paper discusses the development of the “important matters” ego network name generator and name interpreter frameworks.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Butts, Carter. 2003. “Network Inference, Error and Informant (In)accuracy: A Bayesian Approach.” Social Networks 25(2): 103–40. (An excellent formal treatment of the implications of error and missing data on network measures and methods.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Domínguez, Silvia, and Hollstein, Betina (eds.). 2014. Mixed Methods Social Networks Research: Design and Applications. New York: Cambridge University Press. (A nice combination of guide and illustration in using data sources other than traditional survey methods, including ethnographic and simulation approaches.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krackhardt, David. 1987. “Cognitive Social Structures.” Social Networks 9(2): 109–34. (Cognitive social-structural data ask each member of a setting to report on the relations amongst all others, yielding a perspective on the structure of the network from each person. While time consuming, it represents a powerful way to characterize perceptions and relations simultaneously.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marsden, Peter V. 1990. “Network Data and Measurement.” Annual Review of Sociology 16: 435–63. (The classic work on best practices for data collection.)Google Scholar
Robins, Garry, Bright, David, Weissinger, Laurin, and Stys, Pat. 2022. “Data Collection for Social Network Research.” Social Networks 69: 12. (A collection of pieces on data collection best practices.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tubaro, Paola, Ryan, Louise, Casilli, Antonio A, and D’angelo, Alessio. 2021. “Social Network Analysis: New Ethical Approaches through Collective Reflexivity. Introduction to the Special Issue of Social Networks.” Social Networks 67: 18. (A nice collection of reflections on ethical issues in data collection.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Suggested Further Reading

We encourage readers to explore early issues of the journal Sociometry, which includes stunning work, all done by hand.

Bender-deMoll, Skye. 2016. “ndtv: Network Dynamic Temporal Visualizations. R package version 0.10.” (Arguably the best dynamic network movie visualization tool currently available, building on work from SoNIA [Bender-deMoll & McFarland 2006]; provides a rigorous linkage between network change and screen change that minimizes display artifacts.)Google Scholar
Borner, Katy. 2010. Atlas of Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Scientometric models of all of science; provides nice examples of visualization at scale.)Google Scholar
Casciaro, Tiziana. 1998. “Seeing Things Clearly: Social Structure, Personality and Accuracy in Social Network Perception.” Social Networks 20: 331–51. (An empirical examination of how people perceive network images.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chase, Ivan D. 2006. “Music Notation: A New Method for Visualizing Social Interactions in Animals and Humans.” Frontiers in Zoology 3(1): 113. (Introduces a method for documenting micro-interactions over time using musical notation as the archetype; an elegant innovation allowing one to see the emergence of patterns over time in complex settings.)Google Scholar
Freeman, Linton. 2000. “Visualizing Social Networks.” JOSS: Journal of Social Structure 1(1). (A nice overview of the history of network visualization.)Google Scholar
Lima, Manuel. 2013. Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press. (A nice book on visualizing text and meaning, including many network approaches.)Google Scholar
Lombardi, Mark. “Narrative Structures.” (A series of network-visualization artworks that explore contemporary political events. Stunning examples of art and investigation.)Google Scholar
McGrath, Cathleen, Blythe, Jim, and Krackhardt, David. 1997. “The Effect of Spatial Arrangement on Judgment and Errors in Interpreting Graphs.” Social Networks 19: 223–42. (Experimental models on how network layout affects viewers’ understanding of the underlying structure. Model paper for a problem still not settled that could use much more contemporary work.)Google Scholar
Steele, Julie, and Iliinsky, Noah. 2010. Beautiful Visualization. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media. (A survey of best practices in general data visualization.)Google Scholar
Tufte, Edward R. 2001. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press. (The classic source in the field of data visualization.)Google Scholar

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