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Understanding The Social Structure Of Academic Social Networking Sites: The Case Of ResearchGate

Chengsong Huang, Xianjin Zha, Yalan Yan, Yunzhi Wang

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Abstract The goal of ResearchGate (RG) is to help users exchange scholarly information around the world. This study drew on adaptive structuration theory (AST) to investigate the social structure of RG, which had been largely overlooked by prior research. Data were crawled from RG and results were presented based on content analysis. For the social structure embedded in RG, the most frequent updates of structural features and spirit occurred in the first two years. Six representative updates for information exchange were analyzed and the newly embedded social structures were presented. For the social structure emerging in using RG, users were more willing to answer questions than ask questions, which countered intuition. Three categories were elicited to present the purpose and expectation of questions. Users were more willing to publish publications than publish projects. Compared with reading publications and projects published by others, users seldom commented on them. For the comparison between the two social structures, this paper analyzed and compared the two social structures in terms of three types of information exchange, finding that the social structure emerging in using RG differed from that embedded in RG. We suggest that this paper could potentially help the two social structures of RG promote the optimization of each other.