Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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Critical path analysis

core definition

Critical path analysis is a technique used to plan the timings of, and resources to be put into, a work project that involves at least some activities going on in parallel.

explanatory context

The critical path is the sequence of events that define the minimum time in which the work can be completed. Critical path analysis can indicate what leeway there is on non-critical tasks and is an aid in planning and managing projects.


Sophisticated critical path models are usually run on computers and there are a number of standard packages available. (early ones included PERT, GERT and VERT).

analytical review

tutor2u (undated) states:

Critical Path Analysis (CPA) is a project management tool that:

  • Sets out all the individual activities that make up a larger project.
  • Shows the order in which activities have to be undertaken.
  • Shows which activities can only taken place once other activities have been completed.
  • Shows which activities can be undertaken simultaneously, thereby reducing the overall time taken to complete the whole project.
  • Shows when certain resources will be needed – for example, a crane to be hired for a building site.

In order to construct a CPA, it is necessary to estimate the elapsed time for each activity – that is the time taken from commencement to completion

Then the CPA is drawn up a based on dependencies such as: the availability of labour and other resources; lead times for delivery of materials and other services; seasonal factors – such as dry weather required in a building project.

associated issues


related areas



tutor2u, undated, 'Critical Path Analysis CPA (Network Analysis)' available at, accessed 4 February 2013, not available 2 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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