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I have just finished teaching a course on SNA at the ACSPRI Summer School -
Canberra Australia. This is the tenth time I have done it now.
I have found that NetDraw is the best way to get into some basic network
diagrams - however you need to do this by using the VNA data format
described (briefly) in the NetDraw documentation.
I have students enter their node data and tie data as separate worksheets in
an Excel document. This allows you to do all your data cleaning and simple
analyses using the Excel functions. You then copy and paste this information
into a text (Notepad) file and read it directly into UCINET and/or NetDraw.
NodeXL utilises almost the same structure for data management - so I am
planning to run it as well as NetDraw. It has different visualisation potential.
However it is much more limited. A couple of drawbacks I have found:
1. NodeXL expects numeric data only for node/ vertex data. Much social
science data is categorical and it is useful to have the labels (e.g. Male and
Female) immediately visible. NetDraw handles this type of data much better.
2. NodeXL will import tie/edge data from another Excel document. When it
does so, however, it wipes out any node/vertex data you had in the NodeXL
I think the drawing and visualisation possibilities in NodeXL are better than
NetDraw - and it has an UnDo button - which NetDraw does not. However for
most social science type network dataset I think the VNA format is best for
data management and NetDraw is optimised to produce useful diagrams
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