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Social Networks in a Sustainable Society

Research in Sociology: Five research lines, five themes

The Sociology Department of the University of Groningen aims at scientific research that has societal significance as well. or in scientific-based interventions.

Research findings and insights about societal questions often find their way back to society, e.g. in policy research. Read more about  Sociology and society .

A research line comprises a number of related projects in which experts in the corresponding fields collaborate and meet regularly. In these lab meetings, research staff, postdocs, PhD students, or research master students discuss ongoing work, papers or research proposals in progress, but also literature of common interest.These themes link to topics of high societal interest and much of the research conducted in the research lines applies sociological knowledge to current societal problems. 

Research activities of the department of Sociology are concentrated in five research lines:

  • Norms and Networks, Institutions;
    Understanding the classical sociological phenomena of social integration and segregation is key, in particular in culturally diverse societies, such as the Netherlands.
    In this research the conditions are studied under which cultural, demographic, and political differences can be overcome and collaboration and cooperation becomes possible.

  • Organizations, and Sustainable Cooperation
    Which institutional arrangements bring about and sustain cooperative relationships that create added value for individuals, organizations, and societies?
    In four interrelated research themes researchers attempt to answer that question.

  • Social development of young people
    In the lives of young people there are a lot of changes. "Young people are really looking for themselves. Who am I? What do I want? Where do I belong?"
    Childhood experiences can have a lasting influence. For example, children who are bullied early in life are more likely later on to suffer from depression.
    Therefore it is important according Veenstra to examine the social development of young people. His research focuses on positive outcomes, goals, friendships and romantic relationships, and negative outcomes, problem behaviour and bullying.

  • Healthy and happy ageing
    The ageing of the population is often being considered as a problem and as a cost for society. But it may actually be more important to examine how people can age in a healthy and happy way, and under which circumstances health and well-being can be maintained for as long as possible during the lifespan. The research group aims at contributing to this challenge with her research program on health and well-being over the lifespan.

  • Statistical methods for the analysis of social network data.
    Do high school students make their friends start smoking? Is a bully a central actor in the classroom? Is the ‘old boy network’ of chief executive officers just a myth, or can social network analysis help to prove its existence through interlocking directorates? ‘It is our job to develop statistical methods, models and software necessary for sociological research,’ The research group is a small group of researchers of statistical methods for social network analysis, statisticians and mathematicians.

  • Testimonial van Merlijn de Lange

    It is about solving social problems through the analysis of social networks.

    I came across this programme by accident. I went to an information session for prospective Master's students and was considering either a Research Master's or the Dutch-taught Crime and Security Master's programme. The presentation for Social Networks in a Sustainable Society was scheduled between those two, so I stayed and listened while I was waiting. It sounded so much more interesting than what I originally had in mind that I chose it.

    I'm very satisfied with my choice. I really enjoy the programme. The lecturers developed it from scratch, and it shows: they are incredibly enthusiastic. As we are a small group of students, there is plenty of opportunity for personal contact with our lecturers.

    We do less statistics than I had expected – our main focus is the theory of social network analysis. But that's very interesting as well. It's about solving societal problems by analysing social networks.

    For instance, one of the cases we studied was about HIV prevention in the homeless. A prevention method did exist, but it was expensive and didn't work very well. By examining the structure of homeless people's social networks and how these could be used to prevent HIV infection, the researchers were able to develop a much cheaper and more effective method.

    I'm currently doing a placement at the Court of Audit, which I'm thrilled with, because it gives me the opportunity to do research that really means something. The project I'm working on is about education for children with special needs. I'm investigating how schools work together with various organizations in order to provide this.

    This Master's programme could land you anywhere. My classmates have done placements at the Institute for Social Research in Friesland, with the police and at the Northern Netherlands Centre for Drug Rehabilitation. Social network analysis is a relatively new discipline and the demand for specialists in the field is high. That means this programme offers good career prospects. But most importantly, it's a really interesting programme to follow.


    – Merlijn de Lange
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