Investigating virtual communities of practice with social network analysis

guidelines from a systematic review of research

Shazia K. Jan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a systematic review of research that uses social network analysis (SNA) to investigate virtual communities of practice (vCoPs). The review was driven by the lack of immediate value of time-consuming qualitative analyses typically conducted on vCoPs. The review seeks to assess the viability of SNA as a primary technique for structural investigation of vCoPs. Only 12 studies met the inclusion criteria for the review which evaluates and synthesises the use of SNA for exploring vCoPs. Overall, the review reveals that the application of SNA has been context specific and restrictive, therefore, the SNA in each study is neither comparable nor comprehensive. However, detailed evaluation and consolidation of the SNA in the studies enabled the development of specific guidelines for investigating vCoPs with SNA. By allowing timely and reliable analytics on online data, the SNA-based guidelines present valuable implications for ongoing analytics, design and facilitation of vCoPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-43
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Web Based Communities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • social network analysis
  • systematic review
  • guidelines
  • communities of practice
  • analytics
  • online data

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