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Soc 380-Pol 350 2020
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Sociology 380–Political Science 350: Networks and Social Structure

Fall 2020

Tuesday (F02) / Thursday (F01) 12:00–2:50 pm

In Person: Eliot 314 (Tuesday) / ETC 205 (Thursday)


Contact Information:

Kjersten Whittington

Office Location: Vollum 133

Office Phone: +1.503.517.7628

Office Hours: M 10-12pm; Wed 11-12

Book a time slot here:


Alex Montgomery

Office Location: Vollum 317

Office Phone: +1.503.517.7395

Office Hours: Th 12pm–2pm or by appt.


Course Description:

Social network dynamics influence phenomena from communities, neighborhoods, families, work life, scientific and technical innovation, terrorism, trade, alliances, and wars.  Network theories of social structure view actors as inherently interdependent, and examine how social structure emerges from regularities in this interdependence.  This course focuses on the theoretical foundations of structural network dynamics and identifies key analytical questions and research  strategies for studying network formation, organization, and development.  Attention is paid to both interactionist and structuralist traditions in network analysis, and includes a focus on the core principles of balance and centrality; connectivity and clustering; power and hierarchy; and social structure writ large.  Substantive topics include social mobility and stratification, group organization and mobilization, patterns of creativity and innovation, resource distributions, decision-making, the organization of movement and belief systems, conflict and cooperation, and strategic interaction.  This course couples theoretical and substantive themes with methodological applications.  Approximately one-third of course time is spent on the methodology of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting social network data.

Learning Outcomes:

After successfully completing this class, a student will:

Distribution Requirements:

This course can be used towards your Group II “History and Social Sciences” requirement. It accomplishes the following learning goals for the group:

Along with SOC 211, SOC 380 also fulfills half of the History and Social Sciences divisional requirement for non-Sociology HSS students; along with any POL Introductory course, POL 350 fulfills half of the History and Social Sciences divisional requirement for non-Political Science HSS students. It is also an ICPS course.

Course Materials:

The following books can be purchased from the Reed College Bookstore; a PDF of the required text is also available in Week 1 of the EReadings for those who cannot access the books in other formats.


Optional and/or Required only for Some

(free online)

Good books to keep in mind for further information (on reserve):

All readings have been placed on reserve at the library (books) or as Ereadings (books, chapters and articles) available either through Google Drive or by joining the Zotero Group, instructions for which are on the course moodle and Slack. In addition, the articles are available through journal databases available online from the library, hyperlinked when possible on the moodle. Students should bring a copy of the readings to class each day.

Software (Both Sections):


We will be making use of Slack, a message and discussion forum and hub for conversation, questions, comments, and related content to this course. See Appendix: Getting to Know Slack at the end of this document. The nice thing about Slack is that you can easily communicate from a mobile or computer application (or via a URL), and you do not have to go through a painful login to Moodle and navigation to the forums in order to share thoughts, gain or give advance on coding or software challenges, etc.  Essentially, you can talk across platforms and reach others through the mechanism most convenient to them.  You can also post snippets of code, documents, or web links, etc, easily.  Learning Slack is also an important and marketable skill for many potential future jobs.  We will discuss the nature of Slack, how to use it, and our collective rules regarding its use, in class.  Our course Slack workspace is  We will invite you to join and will give you a handout with more details.  Please go through the motions to do so when you see the email.

Software (Tuesday Section):

In this class you will learn how to use network software to utilize empirical network data.  We will use R through RStudio, drawing from multiple software libraries to visualize our networks and calculate basic statistics on them. R can run on Windows, Mac, or Linux environments if you wish to use your own machine; for this class, we will be using Reed’s RStudio server, — you may wish to log in prior to the class to get comfortable with the environment. You should run through R, RStudio, RMarkdown, and SNA in R before the second class.

Software (Thursday Section):

In this class you will learn how to use network software to utilize empirical network data.  We will use two software packages to visualize our networks and calculate basic statistics on them.  You should strive to have the software on your own machine if it can be configured to do so.   Pajek and UCInet can also be accessed from ETC 205, the classroom we are meeting in this semester.  Both run only in a Windows environment, or through a virtual server put together by the college that can be found here.


Individual students pay $40 for a permanent copy of this program.  This can be done at the following link:  Choose the download option to avoid paying an extremely hefty shipping fee. The download page is at:

That said, the full program can be downloaded and used free for 90 days, which is a good chunk of the semester.   If you wait to download it closer to the time we start using it, you will draw out this timeline for which you could use the software for free for course purposes.  [Whether you buy or just try it, you'll download the same program.  Buying it just gets you the registration code that you'll need at the end of the 90 days.]


This program is free, and can be downloaded at the following URL:  If you are using a Mac machine, my recommendation is to use the virtual server to access the software outside of class (the required text for this class has a chapter on how to install Pajek on Mac (Appendix 3), but I have been told the virtual server is much faster). Note also that if you are running macOS 15 (Catalina) this will require a different set of complicated steps that you should only undertake if you are very comfortable with administering your own Mac.


Class participation and Memos

Class participation matters in this course a great deal.  We expect that everyone will arrive to class with questions, topics, and issues to discuss.  If you do not participate, it will be impossible for you to receive an A in this class, and very difficult to receive a B.  If you are having trouble with this, come see us and we will brainstorm about ways to make it work. In addition, you cannot miss more than two classes and pass the course without documentation and approval from us.  To be clear, this policy is not at all related to COVID and illness considerations, for which the attendence policy is waived.  Please see the section below about this.  We do not want you to come to in-person instruction ill or quarantining in any way.

Either a tablet with a keyboard or a laptop (we recommend the latter) is required for the lab portion of the Tuesday section since we will be holding class in a room without desktops. If you do not have access to either, please take advantage of the Student Technology Equipment Program, which has been expanded this year due to COVID-19. The Thursday classroom is fully equipped with desktops, and so laptops are not required.  If at any point we move online only, access to a computer will be needed to complete the course.

Memos and Discussion Questions

In addition to your class participation, each class period you will submit a reading memo in reaction to the assigned readings.  These memos are not meant to be summaries of the articles.  Instead they are intended to help you organize your ideas and to help situate the readings as a collective and in terms of the course thus far.  Writing the memo should not be a particularly onerous task.  However, it should be thoughtfully attended to and viewed as an organizing element of your preparation for the discussion.  It is also a signal to us that you are thoughtfully considering the work at hand.  It should include the following elements:

1.       a brief statement or set of statements about what you understand to be the driving theoretical mechanisms presented in the set of readings for the outcomes observed.  (Social scientific analysis is built on a premise that authors are generating or bringing to the table an argument or set of theoretical arguments that explain the factor or factors, dynamics, or processes responsible/important/critical for an outcome to be observed.  In this consider the driving questions/outcomes of interest and the primary explanations for these offered by the authors for the day’s readings;

2.       an idea or ideas that you appreciated;

3.       a puzzle regarding ideas that you did not fully understand and/or a thoughtful critique of one or two particular arguments that you did not find persuasive, and;

4.       an unanswered question or thought for discussion that arose while you were doing the reading.

These elements should not be “numbered” or in bullet points – rather, discuss them in an integrated manner in paragraph form.  Also please address the combined reading set by not focusing solely on just one article or a subset.  

Memo format and deadline

Leading Discussion

Along with a classmate or two, you will be responsible for leading discussion during the semester.  A signup sheet will be collected and posted with dates for these assignments.  Leaders help shape the discussion by formulating 23 questions in advance of our discussion that you could raise for the class, and by taking an active role in facilitating the discussion during conference.  In your preparations for leading class, plan to meet briefly before class with your partner(s), discuss the readings, and formulate questions to share with the class. This is also due by 10pm the day before class, posted to the Moodle Announcements for your section. Pro tip: Also, leaders please do not simply share questions in an email or docthe intent is to meet face-to-face/zoom-to-zoom, and discuss together a plan of action and appropriate discussion approach.  We will join you in leading the class that day.

Class Lab Assignments

Every week we will use 1 of our roughly 3 hours to work with empirical network data.  You will complete a series of lab assignments during lab and after class.  Many, if not all, of these lab assignments will be handed in to be graded and for comments and feedback from us. Labs are due by 10pm five days after class (two days before the next class).

Midterm Paper

For this assignment you will analyze your own personal network. You will begin by completing a social network survey.  For this portion of the assignment you will be both survey respondent and interviewer.  This will give you a taste of both what it is like to conduct a social network study and what it is like to be a respondent in a social network survey.

For the second portion of the assignment you will act as network analyst.  You will calculate some simple measures of the composition and structure of your network and from this get a sense of what your network looks like.  Then you will write a short analysis of what you find.

This assignment will be handed out during Week 3 and is due Week 5. You should submit a hard copy of your analysis (the paper) with your survey and calculations stapled on the back.  Please also upload your analysis to the moodle at the appropriate link.

Term Paper

Lastly, during the course of the class you will conduct a final research project. This project will explore some aspect of an empirical social network. This project is open-ended and may incorporate network data that you collect, or we may provide options to use already-existing network data (such as our own, or that of others available for download).

In the past, students have analyzed such topics as music collaborations, relationships among bloggers, Reed networks (student study, committee membership relations, etc.), organization interlocks, international trade, citation analysis, and a host of other interesting topics.  Regardless of the topic you choose, your project should be anchored by a substantive or theoretical research question, and based on a general sociological/political understanding of network theory and analysis as presented in the class readings and laboratory sessions.

This analysis will count for a significant part of your final grade, so it should be given a great deal of thought and effort.  The project process will go in stages.  We will introduce the project near the middle of the semester, you will make decisions about your intended approach, and we will have an opportunity to discuss the project with each other in class.  We will devote some of our lab time to work on these projects near the end of the semester.   You must complete the term paper project to pass this course.

Some Final Notes:

You will be expected to strike a healthy balance in conference between arguing your own position on these issues, listening to others, and helping the class to collectively explore how the authors you read defend their approaches. Each member of the class is expected to abide by the Reed Honor principle, according to which you must both take responsibility on yourself to think about how your actions and words affect others, and share responsibility with your peers for enabling the class as a whole to achieve its highest intellectual aims without alienating or marginalizing anyone. Your regular attendance and active participation in conference are necessary for the class to work. Themes and approaches will shift considerably from one week to the next, and in-class discussions will be necessary for you and your colleagues to demonstrate to each other how they fit together.

COVID Class Policies and Guidelines:

Face Masks

All members of the class (students, faculty, staff) are expected to wear face masks during class. If a student does not wear a mask, a faculty member will ask them to leave. If a student continues to not wear a face mask in future classes, a faculty member could dismiss (drop) them from the course.

Health Checking

Students, staff, and faculty are expected to complete a health self-assessment each day to check for symptoms of COVID-19. This assessment tool will be available as a Qualtrics survey.  Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not attend an in-person course (see details below).


Currently, only close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases will be notified. “Close contact” is defined as 15 or more minutes within 6 feet of another person. Since we will be at (or greater than) 6 feet, classes will not be automatically notified. We wish this were otherwise.  Consequently, we urge you to notify one of the instructors, who can then let alert the appropriate section without sharing your identity. We have also added an anonymous reporting method to the #covid Slack channel if you don’t want to identify yourself.

In-person course attendance

Each community member has an individual responsibility to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Following public health guidance is part of living in an honorable community.  If you are ill, self-isolating and/or quarantining due to possible exposure to coronavirus or to other infectious diseases, your in-person attendance in class is not required (and you will not be penalized for not attending in-person classes). The following recommendations should guide your decision to come to class:

To the extent that they are healthy and able, and do not pose a risk of infection to their classmates, students are expected to participate in-person. Students who are quarantining are expected to participate in remote course activities, which will be provided. Students who are self-isolating should participate in remote activities to the extent that their health allows.

If you need to miss a class, or series of classes, due to illness, self-isolation, and/or quarantine, you are responsible for emailing us to let us know as soon as possible.  You are also responsible for coordinating with us to complete work that you might miss due to absences. It can be challenging to catch up after some time out of class, so let’s collaborate to make a plan for getting up to speed.  

Students with disability-related attendance-accommodations (or any other kind of accommodation) should contact us individually to determine a plan for implementation.

Finally, please let us know right away about any technical issues you are having with respect to accessing material provided to you during a period away from in person class attendance.

Reading List

Week 1 – Introduction to the Course

September 1 (Tuesday section)/3 (Thursday section)

Optional good introductions

Week 2 - Origins of Network Theory

September 8 (Tuesday section)/10 (Thursday section)


Optional and/or for term paper purposes

Week 3:  Local Networks

September 15 (Tuesday section)/17 (Thursday section)


Optional/Background Reading on Topic

Further reading on the isolation-discussion networks debate

Week 4. Centrality

September 22 (Tuesday section)/24 (Thursday section)


Additional Readings that Deal with Centrality and its Mechanisms (Optional Background)


Tuesday Section:  Wednesday, September 30, 2020 by 5pm

Thursday Section:   Friday, October 2, 2020 by 5pm

Week 5 - Brokerage and Structural Holes

September 29 (Tuesday section)/October 1 (Thursday section)


Other Readings that Deal with Brokerage and its Mechanisms (Optional Background)

Week 6 – Relations through Associations

October 6 (Tuesday section)/October 8 (Thursday section)


Background Reading on Duality (Optional)


Week 8 - Social Capital

October 20 (Tuesday section)/October 22 (Thursday section)

Part 1:  Social capital as it relates to individuals and communities, facilitated by organizations

Part 2:  Social capital as it relates to civil society



Week 9 - Connectivity: Small Worlds

October 27 (Tuesday section)/October 29 (Thursday section)


Additional Background Reading (Optional)

Week 10 - Connectivity and Cohesion

November 3 (Tuesday section)/November 5 (Thursday section)


Background Reading (Optional)

Week 11 - Roles and Structural Equivalence

November 10 (Tuesday section)/November 12 (Thursday section)


Additional Background Reading (Optional)

Week 12.  Dynamic Networks, Diffusion, and Peer Influence

November 17 (Tuesday section)/November 19 (Thursday section)

Optional or further reading

Week 13 - Thanksgiving Break, no class

Week 14 - Presentations/final discussions (REMOTE)

December 1 (Tuesday section)/December 3 (Thursday section)

Further Reading: Critiques of Network Theories of Social Structure

Read the following, skimming sections of the articles that contain a review of network theory and methods that are already deeply familiar to you:

Additional Background Reading (Optional)

Appendix: Getting to Know Slack

Background: In our course this semester we will also be making use of Slack, a message and discussion forum and hub for conversation, questions, comments, and related content to this course. The nice thing about Slack is that you can easily communicate from a mobile or computer application (or via a URL), and you do not have to go through the painful login to Moodle and navigating to the forums in order to share thoughts, gain or give advice on coding or software challenges, etc. Essentially, you can talk across platforms and reach others through the mechanism most convenient to them and you. Learning slack is also an important and marketable skill for many potential future jobs, and if you become familiar with it you can put that on your resume. We will discuss the nature of Slack, how to use it, and our collective rules regarding its use, in class. Our course slack webspace is We will invite you to join so please go through the motions to do so by putting in your preferred email address and choosing a name for yourself. Please choose a name that is related to what we call you in class (i.e. no nicknames, etc.).


Students use Slack to share information with one another and ask questions. We will be doing a lot of work manipulating data this semester and Slack will come in handy as you troubleshoot coding problems and issues you are having getting the software to work properly. We encourage you all to share helpful hints or to answer each other's questions about these types of things, although obviously answering lab problems for each other is not the goal! 😊 We might find ourselves using it a lot, or we may not. Each class will develop its own vibe. It will be what we make of it.


Download the app: Once you join the workspace you may download the software app for your laptop or phone and use the platform more easily from those applications. You may also continue to use it as a URL in a browser. It will prompt you to download the software and walk you through the motions of doing so.


Notifications: Slack can notify you when there are posts in the general community, and also when your specific name is mentioned. It will prompt you to enable these if you wish, and we recommend doing so.  Students that have the notifications enabled generally use it more than those that do not.


Forums and Direct Messaging: On Slack there is a #general and a #random channel to direct your comments and questions, and there are also two additional channels that are section-specific. Please post questions about course-relevant topics in the #general and points of interest about related but slightly off topic items in the #random channel.  If you are posting about software specific questions, the section-specific thread is probably best.  You can post to the forms directly through the app.   If you want to mention a specific user you can do so by typing @ before their user name.  You can also “direct message” others in the class and discuss things privately between you or a group of students. You'll see a “direct message” area for this.


Organization and Work Structure: In addition to text messages, Slack can post pictures and files, and code snippets. You can also use Slack to post notes to yourself in the “direct message” area for your name. You can do things like set a reminder (with the /remind command) and other helpful tools. For example, if you see something in Slack that you want to save for later - like an interesting message file or conversation - click the Show message actions icon, hover over Remind me about this and choose when you'd like Slackbot to remind you about the message.  If you type /remind, you'll get instructions on how to set a reminder.  (Such as: “/remind me to drink water at 3 p.m. everyday”). Play around and Google some of these if you're interested!


To Do:  After you have joined please post the following message so that we know you are with us and have at least figured out how to join and post! In the #general channel, please write a message with your name and at least three fun facts about you such as:


          your favorite place in the world

          your favorite food

          your favorite color

          your favorite type of music

          your dream job

          what you want to write your thesis about