DREaM event 2 speaker insight: Dr Louise Cooke

Dr Louise Cooke

Dr Louise Cooke

We are now only a week away from the first LIS DREaM workshop, which will be held in Edinburgh next Tuesday.

In the first of our series of preview posts ahead of the workshop, Dr Louise Cooke gives us a taste of what she intends to cover in her session, in which she will be introducing the participants to social network analysis. She explains why she feels this technique can be of value to LIS researchers and provides a really useful reading list so you can find out more about the issues involved.

Dr Louise Cooke is a Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University, where she teaches the MSc Information and Knowledge Management programme.

What research techniques will you be discussing with the workshop participants?

I will be discussing the potential uses of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in LIS research. SNA is a research technique that focuses on investigating the relationships between entities (e.g. who communicates with whom?), rather than the properties of the entities themselves. We will be doing a practical exercise using UCINET software which will investigate the research links between workshop participants.

How have you applied these techniques in your own research?

I have carried out a relatively simple SNA project, similar to that which we will be undertaking at the DREaM workshop. This analysed research networks between LIS PhD students at Sheffield University and at Loughborough University. I have also supervised MSc students using SNA for their dissertation research. In one case, for example, the student analysed information and knowledge flows in an academic department at Kyambogo University in Uganda. I am also currently supervising a PhD student who plans to use SNA as one element of his research strategy: his overall research project focuses on knowledge management (KM) in organisations.

How do you think these techniques might be relevant to LIS researchers?

SNA is particularly useful in the field of KM. It is increasingly being used by researchers and business consultants to analyse patterns of information and knowledge flow in organisations. In particular, it enables the identification of individuals playing important structural roles in the knowledge network, for example as bottleneck or gatekeeper; peripheral; central connector; boundary spanner etc. It also enables sub-groups, such as cliques, to be identified. Importantly, this enables organisations to make interventions that improve the overall knowledge flow. SNA is also useful to LIS researchers with regard to the exploration of patterns of online communication, for example, within online communities, and is the underpinning theory on which citation analysis is based.

Where can people will find more information?

The most useful (and accessible) text for me has been that by Cross & Parker, The Hidden Power of Social Networks, published by the Harvard Business School in 2004.

A very useful free resource is the introductory handbook written by Robert Hanneman (University of California) and Mark Riddle (University of Northern Colorado) . It is a good starting point if you plan to use UCINET software for SNA.

For an understanding of the potential uses of SNA the paper by Otto and Rousseau would be a good place to start: Otte, E & Rousseau, R (2002) SNA: a powerful strategy, also for the information sciences. Journal of Information Science, 28 (6) 441-453.

Finally, if you are really serious about gaining expertise in the techniques of SNA, I would recommend attending the University of Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis course in SNA – I did this myself, and found it immensely useful.

Dr Cooke will be presenting her session Introduction to social network analysis and will also introduce the workshop 1 game/task. For full details about the workshop, please see the workshop programme.

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