Social Networks

A Social Network approach to social science centers on the relationships between social entities rather than properties of the entities themselves.  These entities could consist of, for example, people, groups, kin, organizations, or geographic regions. By focusing on the linkages among social entities, a social network perspective offers Sociologists, Criminologists and Demographers unique theoretical, conceptual, and analytic tools, including a formal set of methodological approaches to investigate and visualize social network data. 

Penn State Sociology and Criminology faculty members are engaged in extensive research that builds on and extends the conceptual and methodological strengths of the field of social networks. Faculty and students apply this perspective to a wide range of topics that emerge out of specialty areas such as the family, social psychology, race and ethnicity, criminology, methodology, religion, organizations, health, communities, politics, demography, and population.

Sample of Questions Our Faculty and Graduate Students Are Asking About Social Networks

  • To what extent does harassment on Twitter reflect attempts to 1) enforce sexist and racist stereotypes and 2) enhance an individual’s status by increasing retweets and followers?
  • How can new computational text analysis tools allow us to extract social networks from the relatively unstructured text data usually found on websites or in digitized archives?
  • How can social influence in networks help us to understand broader societal patterns like political polarization, the spread of beliefs and innovations, and the structure of organizations and markets?
  • What is the social organization within prison settings and how do the social networks of incarcerated and previously incarcerated individuals relate to their health, recidivism, and rehabilitation outcomes?
  • How do ongoing changes in family structure influence older adult loneliness patterns around the world, and are friend and acquaintance networks filling in the gap?
  • What shapes the formation and dissolution of inter-neighborhood networks ties based on commuting and residential mobility, how does the structure of such networks vary across different neighborhoods, and how do such networks affect neighborhood violence and child health risks?