Network research remains dominated by approaches involving the analysis of numerical data stored in data matrices with the aim of identifying the effects of hidden social structures. While such research has advanced our understanding of social networks at the inter‐personal, inter‐unit and inter‐organizational level, repeated calls have been made for network research to attend to the situated meanings attached to both relationships and network structures.
In this article, the authors advance a nascent literature on qualitative methods for social network analysis by drawing together developments in visual network research from across the social sciences. They introduce a typology of three visual methods for the collection of network data using network maps: participatory network mapping, network map interviews and visual network surveys. Drawing on three empirical examples from their research in the inter‐organizational domain, they demonstrate how these methods can be used for the collection of qualitative and quantitative relational data, and how they can be triangulated with other qualitative methods and social network analysis. They evaluate the merits and limitations of the methods presented and conclude that visual network research is a useful addition to existing methods for network research in business and management studies.