How to create context diagrams

Written by maureen bruen
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How to create context diagrams
Diagram with Flowchart Symbols (Process Flow image by Christopher Hall from Fotolia.com)

To create context diagrams, the external factors affecting the flow of the data must be the key focus of the diagram. Context diagrams are a type of data flow diagram identifying external factors and how they are related to the process or system in a graphical representation. This type of diagram is often used by system engineers and architects as a tool to design systems that process information. A context diagram is developed using the flowcharting symbols readily available in most word processing and graphics software packages.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Instructions

    Create a Context Diagram with a Word Processor

  1. 1

    Click "Start," "All Programs," "Microsoft Office," "Microsoft Word" or open any word processing software with flowchart symbols.

  2. 2

    Click "Insert" and then "Shapes" or display your "Drawing" tool bar to make your shapes readily available for selection.

  3. 3

    Using the drawing tools or the "Insert" menu to place "Shapes," draw or insert a rectangle in the centre of the page.

  4. 4

    Draw a second rectangle on top of this one with the same width but only one-quarter of the length of the first rectangle.

  5. 5

    Right-click to "Add Text" or use the drawing text tools to label this box. This box represents the essential data flow and processing that is affected by external factors. For example, this box might represent the Payroll Processing system receiving payroll input from a variety of external sources.

  6. 6

    Add the external data flows for this process around the central rectangular processing box using the drawing tool. You can also "Insert" a "Picture," "Clip Art" or whatever graphic symbols you need to represent the people, banks and other businesses that provide key inputs to the Payroll Processing system.

  7. 7

    Connect each symbol, person, bank and business to the central rectangular process representing the Payroll Processing system. The connectors can be lines with or without arrows as long as they accurately represent the flow of data in the context diagram.

    Create Context Diagrams with Graphics Software

  1. 1

    Click "Start," "All Programs," "Microsoft Visio 2007" or open any graphics software program with flowchart symbols.

  2. 2

    Click "File," "New" and then "Choose Drawing Type" and select "Flowchart" in the "Category" list and double-click "Basic Flowchart" in the "Template" list. For all other graphics software packages, select one of the "Flowchart" diagrams.

  3. 3

    Click, drag and drop the "Process" shape or rectangle shape onto the diagram. If needed, use the "Drawing" tool bar in your graphics software to select and draw the rectangle.

  4. 4

    Click, drag and drop a second "Process" shape or rectangle shape on top of the first rectangular shape and adjust it so it has the same width, but is one-quarter of the length of the first shape. Using the "Drawing" tool bar in your graphics package, you can also draw a second rectangle shape and resize it to one-quarter of the length.

  5. 5

    Add the text "Payroll Processing System" to the central process box by right-clicking on the second shape. If needed, use the drawing text tools to add the text. For Visio, right-click "Format" and then "Text" will add the text to the box.

  6. 6

    Add the external data flows for this process around the central rectangular processing box using the "Drawing" tool bar or click "Insert" and then "Picture" to select "Clip Art" or import "From File" to get other graphic symbols you need to represent the people, banks and other businesses that provide key inputs to the Payroll Processing system. If needed, you can cut and paste graphics symbols from other locations into your graphics software package.

  7. 7

    Connect each symbol, person, bank and business to the central rectangular process representing the Payroll Processing system. Click, drag and drop a "Dynamic Connector" between each external graphic symbol and the central rectangular process box and connect the access points. If you are using other graphics software packages, use the connectors available or the drawing line tool to connect the external graphics to the central rectangular process box.

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