Network analysis studies the development of the social structure of relationships around a group or an institutional body, and how it affects beliefs and behaviours. Causal constraints require a special and deeper attention to the social structure. The purpose of this paper is to give a new approach to the idea that this reality should be primarily conceived and investigated from the perspective of the properties of relations between and within units, instead of the properties of these units themselves. The relationship may refer to the exchange of products, labour, information and money. By mapping these relationships, network analysis can help to uncover the emergent and informal communication patterns of commercial companies that may be compared to the formal communication structures. These emergent patterns can be used to explain institutional and individuals' behaviours. Network analysis techniques focus on the communication structure of an organization that can be subdivided and handled with different approaches. Structural features that can be analysed through the use of network analysis techniques are, for example, the (formal and informal) communication patterns in an organization or the identification of specific groups within an organization. Special attention may be given to specific aspects of communication patterns. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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