Repository logo

Explaining criminal networks: Strategies and potential pitfalls

Published version

Change log



jats:pThis article offers some remarks on a few critical issues related to explanation in criminal network research. It first discusses two distinct perspectives on networks, namely a substantive approach that views networks as a distinct form of organisation, and an instrumental one that interprets networks as a collection of nodes and attributes. The latter stands at the basis of Social Network Analysis. This work contends that the instrumental approach is better suited to test hypotheses, as it does not assume any structure a priori, but derives it from the data. Moreover, social network techniques can be applied to investigate criminal networks while rejecting the notion of networks as a distinct form of organisation. Next, the article discusses some potential pitfalls associated with the instrumental approach and cautions against an over-reliance on structural measures alone when interpreting real-world networks. It then stresses the need to complement these measures with additional qualitative evidence. Finally, the article discusses the use of Quadratic Assignment Procedure regression models as a viable strategy to test hypotheses based on criminal network data.</jats:p>



criminal networks, explanation, pitfalls, quadratic assignment procedure, social network analysis

Journal Title

Methodological Innovations

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



SAGE Publications