Build and Analyze a Network

Learn how to ask different types of questions based on a network of data

Set Up

This activity will take 30 to 45 minutes. You should have these materials on hand:

  • A basic Internet connection
  • A phone, tablet, or computer for each small group of 3 people
  • A projector connected to a computer

Download and print the activity guide


Kick-Off The Activity

Network graphs are very trendy right now, but few know how to read them, nor why they they might be useful. In this activity you'll create a dataset about local restaurants people recommend, build a network graph out of that data, and then think about questions you can ask it. You will use's Connect the Dots tool to do this.

Use Connect the Dots

Participants will understand and build familiarity with some standard terms and approaches to working with network graphs. Begin by sharing some inspirational examples, then fill in a spreadsheet together of restaurants and who recommends them. This should have two columns - 'Person' and 'Restaurant'. Then paste this data into Connect the Dots to analyze it. Share the URL and have people poke at it, or other sample data, to look for insights and prompt questions.


Have Everyone Share Back

After 10 minutes bring everyone back together to share any insights they found. Were there any obvious benefits they ran into by analyzing this data as a network (instead of a table)? Were there any questions that here harder to dig into? Were any of the algorithms mentioned useful?


Wrap-Up and Talk Next Steps

Now that you've done some basic network graph analysis, help the participants think about any network data your organization has on hand. Are there any questions that came up, or ideas, about steps people should take with your in-house data?