The Importance of Generative Models for Assessing Network Structure

30 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016 Last revised: 9 Jul 2016

See all articles by Matthew Denny

Matthew Denny

Pennsylvania State University

Date Written: July 8, 2016


One persistent challenge for scholars who wish to study political networks lies in correctly assessing the structures of the networks under study, and relating their assessments to their substantive theories. In this article, I illustrate the importance of assessing network structure using a generative modelling approach, and of specifying and testing theories about the structure of political networks at multiple levels. Failure to correctly model the generative process can have significant consequences, from missing important alternative explanations for an observed network structure, to specifying a model which does not test the hypotheses that derive from the researcher's theory. I introduce a general framework for assessing the structural properties of political networks, and apply it to re-specify an existing political science study that seeks to engage with network concepts. I find that correctly applying generative models can dramatically affect inferences about the structure of a political system.

Keywords: Network, Relational Theory, GERGM, Generative Model, International Finance

Suggested Citation

Denny, Matthew, The Importance of Generative Models for Assessing Network Structure (July 8, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Denny (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

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