Social Network Analysis (SNA) can be used to investigate complex social systems. SNA is typically applied as a quantitative method, which has important limitations. First, quantitative methods are capable of capturing the form of relationships (e.g. strength and frequency), but they are less suitable for capturing the content of relationships (e.g. interests and motivations). Second, while complex social systems are highly dynamic, the representations that SNA creates of such systems are often static. These limitations can be overcome by balancing a quantitative approach to SNA with a qualitative approach. In the article two different approaches that seek this balance are demonstrated. The illustrations show that in this combination quantitative SNA is most useful for revealing system-level patterns, but that a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that produce these patterns is more easily achieved through the interpretation of qualitative data

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Complexity, Governance & Networks

Schipper, D., & Spekkink, W. (2015). Balancing the Quantitative and Qualitative Aspects of Social Network Analysis to Study Complex Social Systems. Complexity, Governance & Networks, 2(1), 5–22. Retrieved from