Without each other, we have nothing: a state-of-the-art analysis on how to operationalize social capital

  • Michael Weiler
  • Oliver Hinz
Review Paper


The objective of this article is to review current empirical literature on social capital, a term that broadly refers to the valuable resources derived from interpersonal relations in social networks. A better understanding of this concept can advance research in many domains, particularly as they relate to topics affected by social ties and their embedded resources, such as knowledge sharing and Web 2.0. We examined quantitative studies from top-ranked business-oriented and sociological journals published prior to 2016 that proposed an operationalization of social capital. Based on these criteria, we identified 88 peer-reviewed studies that examine the effect of social capital in different areas. Our review confirms the concept’s basic tenet and shows that researchers from different domains link social capital to a variety of business-oriented and sociological phenomena. However, our state-of-the-art analysis also identifies certain shortcomings of recent social capital research. Thus, the article concludes with a discussion of the challenges inherent to this research stream and proposes some avenues for future growth. In addition, this article can serve a go-to resource for operationalizing social capital that considers the concept’s multidimensionality and provides valuable guidance to scholars looking to conduct their own research in this area.


Social capital Information systems Operationalization State-of-the-art Literature review 

Mathematics Subject Classification




The authors thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor for the very helpful comments and suggestions. This work has been [co-]funded by the DFG as part of project “B.3. Social Capital and Social Networks” within the RTG 2050 “Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users”. Diese Arbeit wurde [teilweise] aus Mitteln der DFG im Rahmen des Forschungsteilbereichs „Soziales Kapital und Soziale Netzwerke B.3“ innerhalb des GRK 2050 “Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users” finanziert.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 70 kb)
11846_2018_280_MOESM2_ESM.docx (167 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 166 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Goethe-Universität FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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