Social Network Analysis Demonstration
Jennifer Watling Neal
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Michigan State University
Jennifer Watling Neal is an assistant professor of ecological-community psychology at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on (1) school districts’ access to and use of research evidence; (2) the role of teacher advice networks in the adoption and use of classroom practices; and (3) associations between children’s peer social networks and classroom behavior. She is also interested in the advancement of social network data collection and analytic methodologies. Neal focuses her work on urban and low-income elementary schools and has collected social network data in several public school districts. Along with Zachary Neal, she is a principal investigator on NIMH and W.T. Grant Foundation funded projects to explore the role of social networks in the transfer of information and research evidence about instructional, health, and mental health programs in Michigan public school districts. Her research has appeared in journals such as Child Development, American Journal of Community Psychology, Sociology of Education, Social Development, Journal of Community Psychology, Aggressive Behavior, Journal of Urban Affairs, and Journal of Early Adolescence. In addition, she has given invited talks on the use of social networks in dissemination and implementation research at the NIH Conference on Dissemination and Implementation, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
Social network analysis (SNA) is a paradigmatic approach to research that focuses on understanding the structure of relationships between a set of actors (e.g., individuals, organizations, communities) instead of their individual attributes (e.g., race/ethnicity, size, geographic location). This approach is particularly promising for understanding systems and informing community change efforts. In this section, I provide a basic introduction to SNA that covers major theoretical principles, network measurement and data collection, and the representation of network data. To illustrate how SNA can be applied to solve real world problems, I describe how our research team used SNA to understand the dissemination and implementation of the Promoting Academic Success (PAS) Project among teachers. The PAS project is an intervention designed to improve educational outcomes for minority boys in elementary schools.