Social networks in and between organizations

P. Groenewegen, J.E. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Social networks form a core topic in the study of organizational and interorganizational processes. Social network research often focuses on individual-level networks, analyzing and theorizing the relations and structures around single actors or organizations. Individual-level network studies are also considered a part of the interdisciplinary field known as social capital studies, which seek to explain why actors differ in terms of access to resources. Social network research also often focuses on the relations among a bounded group of individuals or organizations, who together form complete networks. In the interpretation of the network patterns that emerge when mapping social relations, both the presence and the absence of relationships are of significance in terms of explaining social phenomena. The basic units in network analysis comprise nodes (the distinct units engaging in a relation), and ties (the connection between nodes). Network research focuses on relations as its main focus of investigation, so the minimum unit of analysis is a dyad, or a set of two nodes engaging in a relation. The topic of organizational social networks builds on a diverse scholarly background, including mathematics, sociology, social psychology, economics, and organization sciences; besides these scholarly domains, the topic of social networks is also increasingly adopted as a theoretical framework in, among others, the humanities, computer sciences, health sciences, disaster studies, and beyond. However, overall, the topic can be categorized along three broadly defined areas of interest. The first is attention to the formation of network structures, and how organizational outcomes can be attributed to the structural effects of networks; the second, receiving increasing attention, is the dynamic evolution of network processes; third, structural analyses have attended to different organizational configurations, and how these impact on network effects (such as contagion, diffusion, homophily)—and vice versa.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOxford Bibliographies Online
Issue number11 January
Early online date11 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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