I am currently writing a literature review, and I'd like to be able to plot the evolution of some of the algorithms by plotting papers I've read, and their connections via citation as a horizontal tree, and have the x-axis correspond to publication date.

Here is an example of what I am looking for. Linux Distribution timeline


  • What is this type of graph called?
  • Are there existing tools to produce this type of graph?

Ideally, I'd like to achieve this in R, or using D3.js, but I am flexible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The folks at StackOverflow or DataScience communities would be able to help you better. Maybe you'd want to look at (blog.pixelingene.com/2011/07/building-a-tree-diagram-in-d3-js) $\endgroup$
    – Dawny33
    Sep 9, 2015 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Dawny33, "What is this type of graph called?" is perfectly on topic here. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2015 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @gung Yeah, I have realized it. But, as the comment was helpful and cannot be edited, I preferred to leave it as is. $\endgroup$
    – Dawny33
    Sep 9, 2015 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Did you ever find out how to plot the timeline on the horizontal axis? $\endgroup$
    – sheth7
    Sep 9, 2023 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


So, as the question is perfectly on-topic here, as it deals with "Data Visualization", I would reproduce the comment as an answer, so that future viewers can be benefitted.

What is this type of graph called?

This graph is called as a "Tree diagram" and sometimes also called a dendrogram

Are there existing tools to produce this type of graph?

Yes, the tree diagram can be drawn in all the major data science tools.

Here is a link to the tutorial for plotting the tree diagram in D3.js

In Python, the pydot package can be used. Here is a link to a detailed tutorial.

Here is another tutorial in R, which gives a step-by-step guide on various types of tree diagrams.

I would recommend going with D3 for the dendrograms, owing to better aesthetics, ease of code and flexibility.


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