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Social Network Analysis as a Research Method: A Cutting-Edge Technique That Visually Demonstrates Relationships

Quick Hits - 5 Things to Know About Social Network Analysis

1. Social network analysis is an approach allows researchers to document, represent, and analyze
  the impact of relationship patterns.

2. The Communication Infrastructure approach is based on understanding how networks of residents,
  organizations, and media in the community interact.

3. You can rely on either secondary data (like publicly available records) or primary data (where you collect
   your own information about connections) to conduct this analysis.

4. Network analysis looks at the relationship between two basic components -  nodes (people, organizations,
and ties (relationships, affilitations, associations).

5. Specialized software is often used in network analysis, but there are also more accessible  ways to think
  in network terms and conduct network-based research.


How do I use network analysis in my research?

Taking a network approach is useful when you are interested in relationships - between people, organizations, machines, documents, or even ideas.  Let's think of a family as an example – a husband, wife, and two children make up the central core of that network.  From there, each of them has cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and so on. Taken together, the relationships and connections between all of these people make up the family network. 

The goal of network analysis is to gather information about the structure of the network, and uncover patterns of connections, influence, information flow and resource exchange. There are different approaches to conducting network analysis. Some of them require specialized computer software but others can be done with less technical expertise.  Even just thinking in “network terms” can be helpful to understand a research question.

The Metamorphosis Project always thinks in network terms. The Communication Infrastructure approach looks at a few main networks:

- Social bonds – this includes the interpersonal ties, neighbor, friendship, and family networks

- Organizational links – this includes the connections between residents and community organizations, as well as the inter-organizational connections between different groups working in the community.

- Media connections – this includes the specific media that residents and organizations rely upon for news and information, as well as the connections between different media outlets in the community.

At the Metamorphosis project, understanding these different networks is the foundation of what we do.  Familiarity with these relationships can help you tap into the community storytelling network. This will help you connect with influential people, central organizations, and relevant media sources that are the engine of communication in your community. 

How might network analysis be useful for your work? 
Let's get started by asking the same questions that every research project should start with:

  • What do we want to find out?
    These will be your research questions.
  • Who do we want to get this information from, and How do we get it?
    This will be your research sample and method.      

Collecting, formating and exploring your network data.

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