Social network analysis (SNA) is the use of network theory to analyze social networks. Social network analysis views social relationships in terms of network theory, consisting of nodes, representing individual actors within the network, and ties or edges which represent relationships between the individuals, such as friendship, kinship, organizations and other relationships.

SNA has its theoretical roots in the work of early sociologists such as Georg Simmel and Émile Durkheim, who wrote about the importance of studying patterns of relationships that connect social actors. Social scientists have used the concept of “social networks” since early in the 20th century to connote complex sets of relationships between members of social systems at all scales, from interpersonal to international.

In the 1930s Jacob Moreno and Helen Jennings introduced basic analytical methods. In 1954, J. A. Barnes started using the term systematically to denote patterns of ties, encompassing concepts traditionally used by the public and those used by social scientists: bounded groups (e.g., tribes, families) and social categories (e.g., gender, ethnicity).

Scholars such as Ronald Burt, Kathleen Carley, Mark Granovetter, David Krackhardt, Edward Laumann, Anatol Rapoport, Barry Wellman, Douglas R. White, and Harrison White expanded the use of systematic social network analysis. Even in the study of literature, network analysis has been applied by Anheier, Gerhards and Romo, Wouter De Nooy, and Burgert Senekal. Indeed, social network analysis has found applications in various academic disciplines such as education, as well as practical applications such as countering money laundering and terrorism.

Fan Ouyang & Christiane Reilly