Social network research

Janet C. Long, Simon Bishop

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Analysis of networks is increasingly seen as important for understanding the patterns, processes, and consequences of social relationships in healthcare. Networks can be formal, mandated structures (e.g., a clinical network), can emerge from sharing a common passion, or can be from routine exchanges such as referrals. Braithwaite and colleagues (2009) call for the fostering of naturally emerging networks suggesting these underpin the delivery ofhealthcare and play an important role in driving quality and safety. Social network analysis (SNA) emphasizes patterns of relationships and interactions between network members (actors) rather than individual attributes/behaviors or abstract social structures. SNA conceptualizes networks as composed ofnodes (the actors in the group) and ties (the relationship between the actors). Ties form the structure of the network, and the nodes occupy positions within that structure. This proves a basis to investigate a wide range of issues, including communication pathways between actors (including gaps, bottlenecks, or opportunities to increase connectivity), the presence of“tribes” or silos, key players, networks ofsocial support, and patterns of social influences on behaviors. This also allows researchers to investigate relationships between network structures (e.g., communication flows) and important outcomes (e.g., rapid dissemination of ideas). In this chapter, we will introduce readers to key debates, concepts, methods, and applications of SNA, drawing on the authors’ own studies and the growing body ofhealthcare literature adopting this approach. This demonstrates the contribution of SNA to understanding different types of networks, including at the individual, group, and organizational level.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of research methods in health social sciences
EditorsPranee Liamputtong
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789811027796, 9789811052514
ISBN (Print)9789811052507
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Interprofessional relationships
  • Collaboration
  • Connectivity
  • Brokerage
  • Knowledge exchange


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