This post is for all you SNA novices (geek translation: inceptors) and should help you to see the forest for the trees.
We’ll present you here with our favourite SNA introduction books/articles/courses – sadly, not on cupcakes, chocolate fountains or Harry Potter, although we are in possession of those as well (yes, we have Harry Potter. And we’re not giving him back) – but on the essentials of social network analysis.
This is what we started with, and hopefully it will get you going as well. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of it right from the start, nobody does! 😉
We’ll start easy on you:
Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life by Albert-László Barabási.
A mainstream introduction to SNA and its manifold applications. Nice evening lecture actually… no really! Read it if you don’t believe us! You doubting Thomas, you!
Analyzing Social Networks by Stephen Borgatti, Martin Everett and Jeffrey Johnson.
This is a clear handbook on the principles of SNA without all of the mathematical formulas or other abracadabra that we proclaim to understand. Though some of you might recognize Borgatti as Ucinet’s creator, this is not exactly a software manual, although tips an’ tricks are included!
Social Networks and Health: Models, Methods, and Applications by Thomas Valente.
Another really good introduction to SNA, without the nerve-wracking formulas. Don’t be put off by the title: the health component appears only as an example to the theory.
Social Network Analysis. Methods and Applications (part of Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences) by Katherine Faust and Stanley Wasserman.
This famous – and rather substantial – handbook gives us the Hebegeebees. It’s solid… implying that some of the stuff is also pretty difficult to grasp sometimes.
This one does not ignore the math. More so, it confronts you hard on with all of that. However, no need to panic, just try to understand the main topics. In related news, there’s nothing a glass of wine (or vodka in my case) won’t help you through. Cheers!
The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark Granovetter (in: American Journal of Sociology 78, available through Jstor).
One of the most cited articles of all times (ok, I may be exaggerating just a little bit), Granovetter explains how ties within close-knitted groups (= strong ties) are much less effective when it comes to diffusion of influence and information than ties between different groups (= “weak” ties). A must-read!
Social Network Analysis by Lada Adamic (enroll at the Coursera website).
This course was such a big help! Just proves that hearing someone explain things gets you so much further. It’s simple: you enroll for free (Yay!), download the videos each week and watch them. Some include a pop quiz to let you test whether you understand what’s going on, you’ll need to answer the question before you can watch the rest of the video. But no worries, no one’s watching over your shoulder 😉 The homework assignments and final exam are optional, unless you want a certificate. We strongly recommend you try the assignments though, as this forces you to pay attention and study a bit! They’re corrected automatically and you get hints when you get an answer wrong (you can try again if you’re appalled by your results).
Guess that’s enough for one day, huh? Don’t get too comfy though, there’s more where all this came from!
Silke & Yanne