4.2 Ethics in SNA research

Ethical considerations are important for both research and practice. We won’t spent much time on this topic this week, but I want to encourage you to attend to ethical concerns in your specific research contexts. Does your research involve venerable populations (e.g., young children)? Does your research involve sensitive data (e.g., health data)? Is your research field online or offline? Because SNA is applied in all kinds of educational research, it is almost impossible to come up with a unified ethics guideline. I strongly encourage you to skim this chapter from an Open Textbook produced by the UMN Libraries. What are the possible ethical concerns in your project? I encourage you to start taking notes on how you could address them.

I also want to mention that research ethics is never a static topic at all. In many emerging research spaces (e.g., the Internet), research ethics remains highly debatable (Rivers and Lewis 2014; Kraut et al. 2004). Feel free to share your thoughts via Hypothesis by adding the ethics hashtag, or in the Slack home channel.

If you’re a UMN student and wish to conduct an actual SNA project as part of the class project (which is not required), please check this UMN IRB website for further information. I’m willing to sponsor your project and we can meet individually to talk it through.


Rivers, Caitlin M, and Bryan L Lewis. 2014. “Ethical Research Standards in a World of Big Data.” F1000Research 3 (21~aug). https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.3-38.v2.

Kraut, Robert, Judith Olson, Mahzarin Banaji, Amy Bruckman, Jeffrey Cohen, and Mick Couper. 2004. “Psychological Research Online: Report of Board of Scientific Affairs’ Advisory Group on the Conduct of Research on the Internet.” The American Psychologist 59 (2):105–17. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.59.2.105.