Introduction to social network methods

After word

This page is part of an on-line text by Robert A. Hanneman (Department of Sociology, University of California, Riverside) and Mark Riddle (Department of Sociology, University of Northern Colorado).  Feel free to use and distribute this textbook, with citation. Your comments and suggestions are very welcome. Send me e-mail.

We hope that you've found this introduction to the concepts and methods of social network analysis to be of both interest and utility.

The basic methods of studying patterns of social relations that have been developed in the field of social network analysis provide ways of rigorously approaching many classic problems in the social sciences.  The application of existing methods to a wider range of social science problems, and the development of new methods to address additional issues in the social sciences are "cutting edges" in most social science disciplines.

Social network analysis is also increasingly connected to the broader field of network analysis.  The analysis of "structures" in engineering, linguistics, and many other fields are a rich source of new ideas for analysts focusing on social relations.  Hopefully, the core ideas of social network analysis will enrich our understanding of fields outside the social sciences.

There are many things that this text is not, and now that you've come this far, you may wish to consider some "next steps."

We've focused on UCINET.  There are a number of other excellent software tools available for network analysis and visualization.  Programs like Pajek, Multinet, Jung and many others offer some additional tools and algorithms.  These, and many other resources are cited in the web site for the International Network of Social Network Analysts (INSNA).

We've not provided a rigorous grounding of social network analysis in graph theory.  The text by Wasserman and Faust would be an excellent next step for those wishing to develop greater depth of knowledge than we have offered here.

We've only touched very slightly on the rapidly developing field of the application of statistical methods and graph theory.  StOCNET and other resources (see INSNA) provide more in this important field.

We've not given much attention to the cutting-edge issues of the evolution of networks, and the interface between network theory and complexity theory.  Work by researchers like Doug White and Duncan Watts promises to provide a continuing stream of new approaches and methodologies in the future.

And, perhaps most importantly, we have not touched on very much of the substance of the field of social networks -- only the methodologies.  Methods are only tools.  The goal here is using the tools as ways of developing understanding of structures of social relations.  The most obvious next step is to read further on how network analysis has informed the research in your specific field.  And, now that you are more familiar with the methods, you may see the problems and possibilities of your substantive field in new ways.

table of contents of the book