Sociology 204: Social Networks

Princeton University
Spring 2013
Monday and Wednesday: 10:00am-10:50am
Location: Frist Campus Center, Room 302
Instructor: Matthew Salganik (O: Wallace 145, OH: W 4:30-5:30pm)
Precept times: click here

This course provides students an introduction to the study of social networks. We will focus on understanding the causes and consequences of the patterns of relationships between individuals. Topics will include the small-world puzzle (six degrees of separation), the strength of weak ties, and the spread of diseases and fads.

Student grades will be based on the following:

Numeric grades will be converted to letter grades at the end of the semester based on a standard scale. Any requests for re-grades must comply with the re-grading policy. This course counts towards the requirements for the Certificate in Information Technology and Society.

There is one text for the class: Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan Watts. Other readings are available on the web or from blackboard. To understand the flow of ideas, students should do the readings for each lecture in the order that they are listed on the syllabus.

In this course we will be using Piazza for online class discussion. You will not be required to post, but the system is designed to get you help quickly and efficiently from classmates, the preceptors, and the professor. Rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. Find our class page at:

A note on the use of open access scholarship: Because of the prohibitive cost of academic journals, many of assigned readings for this course are available only to people with access to a university library. I have marked these closed access articles with a . Fortunately, some of the more recent scholarship in this area is freely available to everyone in the world. I have marked these open access article with a . It is my hope that eventually I will be able to construct this syllabus using exclusively open access scholarship. In the meantime, copies of many of the closed access articles can be found through Google Scholar.

Course introduction (2/4/13)

The connected age and the small world problem (2/6/13)

There will be no precept during the first week of the course.

More on the small world problem and some history (2/11/13)

Understanding the small world phenomena (2/13/13)

Assignment 1: Six degrees of Wikipedia

Degree distributions and power laws (2/18/13)

Foci (2/20/13)

Assignment 2: Hubs and foci

Social search (2/25/13)

Spread of disease in networks (2/27/13)

Assignment 3: Is it really a small world?

The madness of crowds (3/4/13)

Thresholds, cascades, and predictability (3/6/13)

Assignment 4: Information cascades and mistaken consensus

Cascades and fads in cultural markets (3/11/13)

Midterm Exam (3/13/13)

There will be no precepts the week of the midterm. Have a great spring break.

Strength of weak ties (3/25/13)

Weak ties and complex contagion (3/27/13)

Assignment 5: Strength of weak ties on Facebook

Core discussion networks of Americans (4/1/13)

Friends of friends (4/3/13)

Assignment 6: Core discussion networks of Princeton students using this questionnaire

Know your epidemic: Networks, sampling, and the sizes of the groups most at-risk for HIV/AIDS (4/8/13)

Know your epidemic: Networks, sampling, and the characteristics of the groups most at-risk for HIV/AIDS (4/10/13)

Assignment 7: Network scale-up study of Princeton students using this questionnaire

Digital traces of communication (4/15/13) [To be changed because of a special guest lecture by Jake Hofman]

Obesity is contagious . . . maybe (4/17/13)

Assignment 8: Spying with digital traces

Experimental studies of contagion (4/22/13)

What Facebook knows (4/24/13)

Assignment 9: Experimental study of contagion on Facebook

Friendship formation (4/29/13)

Homophily (5/1/13)

Creative Commons License
This course material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.