Network diagram

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

A network diagram uses a set of nodes and connecting lines to display of how people (or other elements) in a network are connected.

It is usually a product of social network analysis.

The strength of their connections is represented by varying the display of the line, where width, colour, and arrowheads 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)

Network map with many nodes and connections; cluster of yellow nodes is surrounding on the top side by green nodes and at the bottom by pink nodes

Source: The Information Association for the Information Age Bulletin (2012, August/September

The Network Roundtable

NODEXL Social Network Map

Network map with many connections between icons overlaid onto a grid with two large cells on the left and several smaller ones to the right

Source: Johanna Morariu via Chris Lysy​. Data visualization: Developments in quantitative data display ​(archived link)

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. 

Advice for choosing this method

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 method

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.




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

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

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