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Social Network Analysis Studies in the Public and Private Sectors: A Cross-Professional Comparison

Barbara A. Schultz-Jones and Janet R. Macpherson

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


With this poster, we present the results of our comparison of studies using Social Network Analysis (SNA) within private and public organizational settings. Stimulated by two dissertation studies, both utilizing SNA, it appeared that the studies being conducted within the private sector differed in technique and intent from those being conducted in the public sector. The research included in this study was peer-reviewed and from a wide variety of scholarly publications. Original studies conducted in the public and private sector that dealt with information behavior, network structures, business processes, human resources, organizational behavior, intra-organizational and inter-organizational operations were considered. Research published between 1999 and 2005 were included to get a current feel for the work being done in the SNA area. Both databases and selected journals were searched to find articles that included “social network analysis” somewhere in the article. This was not meant to be an exhaustive search, but rather to provide a good working sample. The articles were examined to determine overall purpose, the research questions or hypotheses being studied, the participants, the methodology, and the outcomes or conclusions. These items were then analyzed to determine common themes, practices, and outcomes within each sector, and then between the sectors. Our search found a total of 21 articles, 14 from the private sector and seven from the public sector. Based on our analysis of these articles, we identified and detailed similarities and differences. We concluded that SNA methodology is successful in both public and private sector research for examining the structure and behavior of organizational networks and much could be learned through a cross-professional exchange of network research experience.

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