Date of this Version


Document Type



The application of social network analysis (SNA) has recently grown prevalent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education research. Research on classroom networks has led to greater understandings of student persistence in physics majors, changes in their career-related beliefs (e.g., physics interest), and their academic success. In this paper, we aim to provide a practitioner’s guide to carrying out research using SNA, including how to develop data collection instruments, setup protocols for gathering data, as well as identify network methodologies relevant to a wide range of research questions beyond what one might find in a typical primer. We illustrate these techniques using student anxiety data from active-learning physics classrooms. We explore the relationship between students’ physics anxiety and the social networks they participate in throughout the course of a semester. We find that students’ with greater numbers of outgoing interactions are more likely to experience decrease in anxiety even while we control for pre-anxiety, gender, and final course grade. We also explore the evolution of student networks and find that the second half of the semester is a critical period for participating in interactions associated with decreased physics anxiety. Our study further supports the benefits of dynamic group formation strategies that give students an opportunity to interact with as many peers as possible throughout a semester. To complement our guide to SNA in education research, we also provide a set of tools for other researchers to use this approach in their work—the SNA toolbox—that can be accessed on GitHub.


Originally published in Physical Review Physics Education Research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Included in

Education Commons



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).