Social Network Research

  • Janet C. LongEmail author
  • Simon Bishop
Reference work entry


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 of healthcare 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 of nodes (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 of social 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 of healthcare literature adopting this approach. This demonstrates the contribution of SNA to understanding different types of networks, including at the individual, group, and organizational level.


Interprofessional relationships Collaboration Connectivity Brokerage Knowledge exchange 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Institute of Health InnovationMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Health Innovation, Leadership and LearningNottingham University Business SchoolNottinghamUK

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