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Social Networks of Young Researchers in Empirical Educational Research

The doctoral thesis investigates how young researchers make use of social networks for their qualification and professional development.

Project description

Theoretical background

Social relations provide access to resources, e.g. information, knowledge, support and cooperation. In examining knowledge distribution and learning contexts, I refer to the theoretical approaches of social capital (Bourdieu) and situated learning (communities of practice, Lave & Wenger). These theories, which focus on social networks, deal with the exchange of information and with communication of actors, access to resources and their distribution. The analysis targets the influence of networks, social capital and social support on professional careers.

Research questions

The relevance of social networks for qualifying young researchers is analysed on the basis of former doctoral students who took part in a six-year research programme in empirical educational research in Germany.

  • Form of network: Which forms of networks are built by the young researchers? How do the researchers use their networks for knowledge acquisition and learning purposes?
  • Research network: What support do the former doctoral students receive from their membership in the network? How are networks created by participating in events? Who do young researchers network with, amongst their peers and amongst renowned experts?
  • Professional career: How are the forms of network and support by the research programme related to the further professional career? How does the social capital influence the achieved professional position?

Methodological approach

The study is based on the method of social network analysis. For an ego-centred analysis of social networks of former doctoral students, data are assessed regarding their professional careers and academic activities.
The project consists of a quantitative part study for data assessment of collaborative publications and research cooperations (see Kenk 2012) and a qualitative survey of ca. 30 former doctoral students, whereby network cards are issued using the Vennmaker software. 


This explorative study aims to analyse potentials of social networks for informal learning in the qualification phase and professional career.
The doctoral thesis shall contribute to insights into education science by enhancing an understanding of how social resources for informal learning processes are used in social networks. Furthermore, the theoretical approaches are assessed by a method from empirical social research which has so far found little use in education science and educational research. The respective insights can be used to promote young researchers, to contribute to their comprehensive qualification, reaching beyond the scope of academic further training.

Milestones and results

The quantitative part study of the young researcher’s publication and research networks has been completed. Selected findings are presented in a contribution to a collective work (Kenk 2012). The visualisation links individual and professional characteristics with their networks. I pursue the question of what types of networks, forms of learning environments and professional development can be discerned in the graphical chart from the context of the research programme. The findings reveal that close mentoring relationships as well as “communities of practice“ can be found and that the types of networks change throughout a career.
In the first half year of 2013, personal interviews for the data collection of social support networks during the doctorate studies were conducted. Using the software Vennmaker, network maps were created and interviews were recorded (see project flyer in German).


[Publication and research networks of young researchers in the field of empirical educational research]

The doctoral thesis is supervised by Professor Eckhard Klieme at DIPF; it was accepted by the Faculty for Educational Science, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt in June 2010.


Project Management

Prof. Dr. Eckhard Klieme

Project Details

Completed projects
2010 – 2014
Department: Educational Quality and Evaluation
last modified Aug 04, 2017