Sociograms – the probably most important (?) puzzle stone of an investigation

Facts investigation are carried out in parallel or sequentially in various phases. The sociogram is an important element that facilitates the everyday life of an investigator, examiner, auditor, expert or consultant.

Facts investigation are carried out in parallel or sequentially in various phases. The sociogram is an important element that facilitates the everyday life of an investigator, examiner, auditor, expert or consultant.

Source of the sociogram

The graphic presentation of the relationships of a group of subjects to be defined is a sociogram (Latin socius ‘Comrade’, ‘Companion’ and ancient Greek γράμμα grámma ‘Sign’). Originally developed by Jacob Levy Moreno.


The excuse: “I am not creative!”

How often I hear this excuse from colleagues when it comes to recording the state of knowledge is record-breaking. All the traumas from childhood in connection with teachers, parents, relatives and other persons (in one’s sociogram!) are added. I do not accept this avoidance tactic. In favour of the cause. I do not take the risk of missing out on potential opportunities if an attempt is made to depict a network of relationships without graphic representation and, if necessary, to discover relationship patterns. This is where my personal risk tolerance as the person responsible for this clarification of facts comes to an end.


Practical case “Investigation of the facts”

In the context of internal or external investigation, the sociogram is your friend and helper. Once initial avoidance strategies have been eliminated, nothing stands in the way of the creative process of clarifying relationships. In concrete terms, this means that by making full use of the visualization possibilities, we can support the hypothesis work on the one hand and recognize the various already obvious indications on the other.

The start is often modest. This means that you sketch a small area with a pencil. The temptation to solve this directly in a tool is huge. Why do I advise against it? Drawing sociograms is a process that matures. The use of paper, sticky notes and, if necessary, a string can directly change the sociogram. Very few sociograms become smaller throughout the investigation of the facts. Therefore: analog before digital. Even if at the end a sociogram can flow into a tool. I love graphics too!

A flipchart paper, for example, gives way to the original small square, right up to the wall which takes up all the protagonists and their relationships to each other.

What belongs on a sociogram?

Everything you want to outline and is relevant for the question to be clarified. In most cases of an investigations, I want to see not only the protagonists with their names but also with their additional attributes to be determined. These can be character traits, periods, nationalities, affiliations, etc. Everything helping me finding the evidence to solve the questions of the actual case.

In addition to the attributes, I also work with different colors of sticky notes. Reason: Due to the optical differentiation and visualisation I address both halves of the brain much better. Brain research supports any investigator, examiner or auditor in their daily work! Within teams that work with sociograms, it is also important that everyone knows the legend of the sociogram. Please document the meaning of colors, formats, etc. you use to ensure proper application.   

The relationships between the subjects can be displayed in different ways. The advantage of pin and string is flexibility. By drawing the connections, they are fixed from the beginning. Here, too, the legend must be maintained accordingly.


Hypotheses, circumstantial evidence, evidence: I see something you don’t see

Every sociogram has blindspots. Exactly these are of interest and what we are looking for as a professional investigator. They show what information and especially facts are missing. The crucial evidence of the case.. A professional sociogram is at the end of the investigation process the map that visualizes the hypotheses, the leads and evidence. The detailed statements are finally reflected in the Fact-Finding Report. The product of each investigation.

And no, don’t let yourself be restricted: often it is necessary to start with different sociograms at the beginning, depending on the starting situation. In most cases, they will grow together in the end.

In that sense, yours

Sonja Stirnimann

PS: When did you draw the last sociogram? It doesn’t need a course in “drawing sociograms” or any other certificate. Your creativity is definitely enough and thanks you. The questions will give way to answers and I am convinced that you will be fascinated by everything there is to discover.

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles