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Uncovering Covert Structures: Social Network Analysis and Terrorist Organizations

Case
By: , & Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

Social network analysis is a powerful method to analyze complex social networks. However, finding and gathering data that are suitable for social network analysis is often complex and time-consuming. This is particularly the case for clandestine networks such as terrorist organizations. In our research project, we used social network analysis to gather and analyze publicly available data from the United Nations Security Council on the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. We generated a new dataset which allowed us to map and analyze diverse features of the Al-Qaeda group structure. In this methods case, we introduce some of the key concepts and measures of social network analysis such as “node,” “tie/edge,” ordifferent “centrality” measures, and we provide insight on how we generated and analyzed the data fostering a basic understanding of social network analysis. Furthermore, we discuss the strength and weaknesses of social network analysis in analyzing terrorist networks and reflect on some of the advantages and shortcomings of our dataset. We also provide practical advice on several topics when using social network analysis. We suggest software, websites, and references to help start further social network analysis research projects. This research methods case should be most helpful for advanced students and researchers who want to use social network analysis in general and for researching terrorist networks in particular.

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Social network analysis

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