Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Understanding the power and impact of social networks is key for a range of professions working in the global community in the twenty-first century. Interactions with other individuals generate enduring relationships and commitments through which links and connections are established. This unit provides an overview of key concepts and major issues concerning social networks as interactive relationships and the resources that emerges from them, widely described as social capital. Using comparative approaches students will explore different analysis and cutting-edge research findings concerning social networks and social capital, and associated debates. Students will be provided with opportunities to investigate issues that arise from the study of social capital, including community, trust, and a range of interactively generated social resources. The unit aims to offer a critical perspective for understanding cultural, historical and institutional approaches to social networks and social capital in the context of real-world experiences.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify different sociological approaches and perspectives appropriate to the study of social capital and social networks (GA4, GA5, GA8)  

LO2 - Demonstrate skills in sociological analysis and critical thinking through the collection and analysis of empirical data available in the relevant literature (GA1, GA4, GA6, GA8) 

LO3 - Communicate clearly and comprehensively through written and oral forms (GA9)  

LO4 - Construct specific sociological arguments using relevant theories, concepts, and evidence relevant to social capital and social networks (GA4, GA5, GA6) 

LO5 - Apply relevant sociological theories, concepts, and evidence to the analysis of social phenomenon associated with social capital and social networks (GA2, GA5)  

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • key concepts of social capital and social networks 
  • social capital: resources from and in social networks  
  • different approaches to understanding and debating social capital and networks  
  • power in and from networks  
  • network ties 
  • social obligation and resources  
  • variation in social network practices generative of different types of social capital that operate in different societies, reflecting differences in socially valued resources.  
  • different types of social networks including family and kinship networks, friendship networks, on-line networks  
  • the ‘small world’ phenomenon and similar demonstrations of pervasive network pathways  
  • themes arising out of consideration of the network constitution of societies in general 
  • specific nature of social capital as a resource available to groups and individuals as well as its (un)equal distribution and the mechanisms associated with its operations 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The unit’s learning and teaching strategy is based on the delivery of lectures and student participation in tutorials. Lectures provide students with expert knowledge of unit material organized in terms of theoretical approaches, case material and problem solving. Lectures provide students with opportunities to learn relevant theoretical approaches and case material in order to enhance their reflections on the topic and subject matter and independently seek additional readings and other sources. Tutorials provide students with opportunities for active participation in learning through discussion and debate, preparing and delivering oral presentations and raising questions directed to further exploration of topics. Student participation in tutorials is expected. 


This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment tasks for the unit are designed to encourage and contribute to student learning and at the same time to ascertain the success of the learning process. Assessments are designed to meet unit learning outcomes and encourage development of graduate outcomes. A variety of tasks are undertaken by students enrolled in the unit in order to develop skills appropriate to a second-year study in sociology. Oral presentations allow students to critically discuss their analysis of social phenomenon by applying and possibly developing theories and concepts, knowledge of which is acquired in the unit. The research project and the summative task provide students with opportunities to demonstrate critical thinking skills and apply intellectually sensitive theoretical arguments in empirical analysis and research on various cultural and social contexts. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Oral presentation 

Requires students to demonstrate their critical thinking skills and understanding of key concepts related to social capital. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9 

Research project 

Requires students to investigate and critically consider different cultural social practices and social capital. Topics on LEO. 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8 

Summative task 

Requires students to apply theoretical arguments and evidence-based analysis. 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8 

Representative texts and references

Barbalet, J. (2014). The structure of guanxi: Resolving problems of network assurance. Theory and Society, 43(1), 51-69.  

Burt, R. (2009). Structural holes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 

Field, J. (2017). Social capital. London: Routledge 

Gold, T., Guthrie, D. & Wank, D. (Eds). (2002). Social connections in China: Institutions, culture, and the changing nature of guanxi. New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380. 

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks: Theories, concepts, and findings. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Lin, N. (Ed.) (2010). Social capital: Critical concepts in the social sciences. New York: Routledge. 

McLean, P. (2017). Culture in networks. Cambridge: Polity Press. 

Qi, X. (2013). Guanxi, social capital theory and beyond: Toward a globalized social science. British Journal of Sociology, 64(2), 308-324. 

Scott, J. (2017). Social network analysis. London: Sage. 

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