Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Social Network Analysis

Social Network Analysis
Social network analysis is the formal study of relationships between social entities. Sociologists and Criminologists often study the relationships between people, such as friendships or family ties, or between organizations, such as the links created between university departments through faculty co-authorships or between corporations through board interlocks. Questions of particular interest include what causes these links to form, their characteristics in terms of local features like communication frequency or global features like how they connect disparate groups of actors, their dynamics, and how they channel rights, obligations, information, and influence between entities. The Penn State Department of Sociology and Criminology has exceptional strengths in the theory and analysis of social networks, both in its graduate faculty and in its consequent course offerings. What sets our department apart from others is our strong focus on issues pertaining to social psychological processes underlying network formation and dynamics, social network data collection in general and hard-to-survey populations, the importance of family and kinship ties and social support, networks over the life course, criminal and illicit networks, migrant networks, peer influence networks, spatially embedded network analysis, social media networks, and novel methods for modeling social networks, including computational and agent-based models of network processes. Capitalizing on these strengths, as well as the interests of our students, students in Sociology and Criminology can earn a Certificate in Social Network Analysis Applications in Criminology and Sociology (SNAACS) in place of a minor area of concentration for Ph.D. students in Sociology and Criminology. To earn a SNAACS Certificate, students must complete the following:
  1. Complete one required 3-credit courses and three appropriate elective 3-credit courses for a total of 12 hours of course work. All students in the certificate program must complete the course “Social Network Analysis (SOC 580)”, which deals with the theory and methods of social network analysis (3 hours). Students must also complete three additional approved courses that draw heavily on topics related to social network analysis (9 hours). These courses will need to be approved annually by the SNAACS certificate committee based on a review of several materials. To obtain approval, the student should submit a written request that includes:
    1. the course’s syllabus
    2. a brief description of the way social networks are incorporated into the course
    3. contact information for the instructor; ideally, these requests should be submitted two weeks prior to the start of the semester in which the course will be taught, but retroactive requests will be considered at the discretion of the Head of the SNAACS certificate committee.
  2. A list of courses with content that may be relevant is listed below.

  3. Include social network analysis as one of the major or minor areas or subareas on the student’s comprehensive examination.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to apply the theories and/or methods of social network analysis in a research setting. This can be done in one or more of the following ways:
    1. Drawing heavily on the theories and/or methods of social network analysis in a substantial component of the dissertation. Note that the dissertation does not have to be primarily focused on social network analysis, but at least one component, such as a chapter, should make extensive use of networks related topics or methods. For instance, research on social support, social capital, peer influence, or family dynamics would all qualify, in addition to work that conducts formal network analyses. Approval of this component will be made by the Head of the SNAACS Certificate Committee, in consultation with the broader SNAACS committee, the student’s Dissertation Chair, and the Directors of Graduate Studies in Sociology and Criminology
    2. Submitting a sole- or co-authored manuscript to a recognized academic outlet such as a peer-reviewed journal or an edited volume that relies extensively on or develops social network analysis methods or theories. If a co-authored manuscript is submitted, it is expected that the student’s contribution was substantial (e.g., typically, a first author for articles submitted to sociology journals, or an equal responsibility author); a short memo with a description of the student’s role in the manuscript’s drafting should be submitted along with co-authored manuscripts. To fulfill this requirement, the submitted manuscript and any accompanying materials must be evaluated and approved by the Head of the SNAACS Certificate Committee, in consultation with the broader SNAACS committee.
    3. Completing an internship that relies heavily on the theories and/or methods of social network analysis at a research agency or company with an emphasis on social network analysis. To fulfill this requirement, the student must meet with the head of the SNAACS certificate committee and discuss the internship’s duration and focus. Approval will rest with the Head of the SNAACS committee, in consultation the broader SNAACS committee and the Directors of Graduate Studies in Sociology and Criminology.
With the approval of the department’s graduate committee, the SNAACS certificate can be substituted for the Ph.D. minor area.

Courses whose content may be eligible for fulfilling certificate requirements

Courses listed below may be eligible to meet the certificate’s course requirements described above (item one). In each year, a student may petition the SNAACS committee to include one of the following courses, or others, as fulfilling these requirements. As the topical emphasis in each course shifts from year to year, approval will be based on the year’s syllabus and potentially a discussion with the faculty member teaching the course. In general, courses that include substantial coverage of the theories and methods of social network analysis and an instructor who feels that this material is important to the course will be approved. Additional courses will also be considered, and new ones will be added as we find out about them and they become available. Courses other than those listed below will also be considered with a written request for approval from the Departmental SNAACS committee. The procedures described above will also be applied to these approval requests.

In the Department of Sociology and Criminology

Course Number
Course Name
Networks and Crime
Crime and Health
SOC 521
Family Demography
SOC 522
Demography of the Life Course
SOC 523
Internal and International Migration
SOC 525
Immigration, Assimilation, and Inequality
SOC 526
Health Disparities
SOC 530
Sociology of the Family
SOC 531
Family Disorganization: Stress Points in the Contemporary Family
SOC 537
Biosocial Perspectives on the Family
SOC 576
Applied Mathematical Demography
SOC 579
Spatial Demography
SOC 584
Attitude Formation and Change

In Other Departments

Course Number
Course Name
CAS 563
Pairs & Pairings: Quantitative Methods for Interdependent Data
CSE 597
Graph Mining
CSE 597
Social Network Data Analytics
EE 556
Graphs, Algorithms, and Neural Networks
ENTR 571
Strategic Innovation in Corporate Networks
IE 512
Graph Theory and Networks in Management
INSC 846
Network and Predictive Analytics for Socio-Technical Systems
IST 597
Visualization and Advanced Analysis of Social Networks
MGMT 539
Seminar in Organizational Social Networks
PHYS 580
Elements of Network Science and Its Applications
PLSC 597
Social Network Analysis for Political Science
STAT 507
Epidemiologic Research Methods
A student who has met the requirements for the SNAACS certificate must write a letter to the Director of Graduate Studies and the head of the SNAACS committee documenting how they have been met and requesting award of the Certificate. Upon evaluation and approval from the SNAACS committee, approved students will receive a letter confirming the completion of all requirements and a signed certificate.