This book provides an introduction to the theories, methods, and applications that constitute the social network perspective. Unlike more general texts, this title is designed for those current and aspiring educational researchers learning how to study, conceptualize, and analyze social networks. The author's main intent is to encourage you to consider the social network perspective in light of your emerging research interests and evaluate how well this perspective illuminates the social complexities surrounding educational phenomena. Whether your interests lie in examining a peer's influence on students' achievement, the relationship between social support and teacher retention, or how the pattern of relations among parents contributes to schools' norms, the tools introduced in this book will provide you with a slightly different take on these and other phenomena. Unlike other approaches, this perspective accounts for the importance of relationships within formal structures, and the informal patterns of interaction that emerge, sustain, or recede. Relying on diverse examples drawn from the educational research literature, this book makes explicit how the theories and methods associated with social network analysis can be used to better describe and explain the social complexities surrounding varied educational phenomena.

The Social Network Perspective and Educational Research Introduction

We are surrounded by concentric circles of special interests … However, a person is never merely a collective being, just as he is never merely an individual being.”

Georg Simmel (1908/1950, p. 261)


The primary objective of this chapter is to establish a central point in social network analysis: relationships shape a person's behavior and/or attitudes beyond the influence of his or her own individual characteristics. This orienting chapter establishes this point by demonstrating how this theoretical and methodological approach differs from conventional approaches used in educational research, which often views individuals as mere collections of attributes. Upon completion of this chapter, you will be able to (1) distinguish how social network analysis differs from other conventional approaches and ...

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