On Network Theory

14 Pages Posted: 6 May 2013

See all articles by Steve Borgatti

Steve Borgatti

University of Kentucky; LINKS Center

Daniel Halgin

University of Kentucky

Date Written: May 5, 2011


Research on social networks has grown considerably in the last decade. However, there is a certain amount of confusion about network theory — for example, what it is, what is distinctive about it, and how to generate new theory. This paper attempts to remedy the situation by clarifying the fundamental concepts of the field (such as the network) and characterizing how network reasoning works. We start by considering the definition of network, noting some confusion caused by two different perspectives, which we refer to as realist and nominalist. We then analyze two well-known network theories, Granovetter’s strength of weak ties, to identify characteristic elements of network theorizing. We argue that both theories share an underlying theoretical model, which we label the network flow model, from which we derive additional implications. We also discuss network phenomena that do not appear to fit the flow model and discuss the possibility of a second fundamental model, which we call the bond model. We close with a discussion of the merits of model-based network theorizing for facilitating the generation of new theory, as well as a discussion of endogeneity in network theorizing.

Keywords: network theory, social networks

Suggested Citation

Borgatti, Steve and Halgin, Daniel, On Network Theory (May 5, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2260993 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2260993

Steve Borgatti (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky ( email )

550 South Limestone
Lexington, KY 40506
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.analytictechcom/borgatti

LINKS Center ( email )

455P Gatton College of Business and Economics Bldg
Lexington, KY 40506-0034
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.linkscenter.org/

Daniel Halgin

University of Kentucky ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506
United States

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