Network Analysis

Published in Handbook of Research Methods in Religious Studies

The analysis of networks examines the relationships between different individuals, groups or organizations. The patterns of these relationships between the nodes—or single points—provides important information about the role they play in the larger population.

This book chapter first defines the components of networks before articulating network frameworks, specifically the connectionist and topological metaphors. The chapter goes on to articulate strategies for studying and analyzing networks. Primary data collection strategies include important matter networks, partial network data, and complete network data. Analysis of network data is classified into local network composition, position of nodes or edges evaluation, and overall network structure. These analyses consider concepts such as centrality, distance, density, and connectivity. Finally, the chapter discusses visualization techniques used in network analysis.

Using examples from research on religion, the author argues that studying networks as opposed to specific nodes allows researchers to better understand social aspects and implications of different affiliations, particularly in religious research.

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