Structure of the Book
This book is divided into four main sections that broadly map onto the rationale and theory, method, and application of ERGMs, with a fourth overview section discussing future directions. We consider that theory, method, and empirical work are fundamentally intertwined and interdependent. Thus, you will note that the first section, despite its flavor of conceptual discussion, still addresses methodological issues and provides empirical examples, whereas theoretical concepts permeate the methods section.
Section I: Rationale
Section I of this book provides an intuitive introduction to ERGMs by connecting to various aspects of social network (and social science) theory, the thinking behind the methods, and the empirical examination of research questions. Chapter 2 provides a very general initial description of ERGMs, including some broad definitions and a discussion of some central elements of the ERGM approach. Chapter 3 introduces some important network ideas about the formation of social ties and social structure more generally, and explains how these relate to an ERGM analysis. Chapter 4 introduces some central methodological details of ERGMs in intuitive terms for readers unfamiliar with the models, with more technical details delayed until Section II on methods. Finally, in this section, Chapter 5 provides an early and simple example of applying an ERGM to network data (an example we explore in greater detail in Chapter 13). In this way, we illustrate the type of inferences and interpretations that can be made about network structure using ERGMs. Our aims in this first section are not only to describe theoretical issues important to ERGMs but also to build intuitions for those coming to this modeling approach for the first time, before they encounter the more technical detail in Section II.