Operationalizing network analysis for higher education research

Robin Shields

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Over the past decade, research on higher education has increasingly utilised networks as a conceptual approach for understanding contemporary policy and practice. This perspective shifts the focus of analysis from atomic units of study (whether individuals, institutions, or governments) to the links that connect them, adding a new layer of complexity and emphasising patterns of connectivity over the intrinsic characteristics and qualities of these atomic units. While networks have been employed in the literature as a conceptual approach, the empirical application of network analysis has been much more limited: studies employing social network analysis methods to investigate higher education empirically are relatively scarce. This chapter provides a foundation for future empirical research on higher education networks by operationalizing the empirical application of network analysis (or social network analysis) for higher education research, with a particular focus on quantitative methods. It reviews potential sources of network data and identifies how the network perspective can offer unique insights that are unavailable through more traditional methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave International Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance
EditorsJ. Huisman, H. de Boer, D. D. Dill, M. Souto-Otero
Place of PublicationBasingstoke, U. K.
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781137456175
ISBN (Print)9781137456168
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2015


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