Network Diagram

System mapping, Netmap, Network diagram, Network analysis, Network mapping

A network diagram is made up of a set of nodes and lines that connect those nodes. Usually a product of social network analysis, a network diagram is the visual display of how people (or other elements) in a network are connected.

The strength of their connections is represented by varying the display of the line, where width, colour, and arrow heads communicate aspects of the relationship. The position of the nodes themselves also implies centrality or distance from the network. Viewing a network diagram can help understand which employees are most critical to certain tasks, how students in a school are grouping, how grantee relationships changed after a convening, and so on.


A web environment network for ASIS&T (created by Webometric Analyst) 


The Network Roundtable


NODEXL Social Network Map

This network map shows Twitter users who add the #eval hashtag at the end of their tweets and how those users are connected. Those users in the centre of the network have the most lines connecting them to others. 

Source: Johanna Morariu via Chris Lysy​. Retrieved from


Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)

Network diagrams can be produced by hand but are most often and most accurately produced through software specific to social network analysis.

Network diagrams are used to depict relationships. The relationships do not always have to be between people, but could be used to analyse relationships between organisations, websites, or other elements.

Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)

Plan to customise the default diagram produced by social network analysis software so that colours are intentional, fonts are legible, etc.

Whether to put labels on the nodes is a debate. Some say labelling the nodes is helpful in decoding the diagram and finding solutions to problems. Others say adding labels wouldn’t be helpful. In truth, it depends on the context in which the network diagram will be displayed and the strength of the existing relationships.



The Network Diagram - bringing order to project work flows: Clear explanation about how to make a network diagram, including a simple example based on making a cup of tea: Holland & Holland Enterprises Ltd (2012).


NetDraw: a free Windows-based network diagram software.

NodeXL: is a free social network analysis software that operates as a plug-in for Excel.

Other ways to see relationships among data points

Displaying the relationship between two quantitative variables plotted along two axes. A series of dots represent the position of observations from the data set.

Matrix Chart
Shows relationships between two or more variables in a grid format​.

View all data visualisation options here.


Morris R A.(n.d.) The network diagram in Project Management: Creating the Schedule on Net Paces Website. Retrieved from (archived)

Holland & Holland Enterprises Ltd (2012). The Network Diagram - bringing order to project work flows. Retrieved from link)

Updated: 7th September 2020 - 4:44pm
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A special thanks to this page's contributors
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Banana hill.
Research Assistant, RMIT University.


Kathycastle's picture
Kathy Castle

Thank you for sharing this great post. Network diagrams can also be used for project management and scheduling purposes. Activity on Arrow and Activity on Node diagrams are very popular tools that involve nodes and arrows.

Patricia Rogers's picture
Patricia Rogers

Thanks for these suggestions, Kathy.  Are these really network diagrams as discussed above, or just types of Gantt charts?

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