Quality & Quantity

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 1067–1089 | Cite as

Tackling connections, structure, and meaning in networks: quantitative and qualitative methods in sociological network research

  • Jan FuhseEmail author
  • Sophie Mützel


The paper systematizes the role of qualitative methods, statistical analyses, and formal network analysis in sociological network research, and argues for their systematic combination. Formal network analysis mainly aims at a description of network structures as well as at an explanation of the behavior of the network at the systemic level. Formal network analysis can also be used in order to explain individual behavior or the existence of individual connections from network structure. Statistical analyses of ego-centered networks are used to correlate individual attributes with the structure and composition of the individual embeddedness, thus providing a statistical explanation of network effects and determinants. Qualitative methods are important for exploring network structures, and for understanding the meaning connected to them. A historical overview shows that these three strands have long co-existed in sociological network research without engaging in combined research efforts. Combinations of these methods prove useful when considering the various aspects of networks (individual connections, structural patterns, and meaning).


Social network analysis Culture Meaning Relational sociology Qualitative methods 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Social Science Research Center BerlinBerlinGermany

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