# What is a circuit diagram?

An electrical circuit is a closed loop path through which current can flow. An electrical circuit can be made up of almost any materials (including humans if we’re not careful!), but practically speaking, they are typically comprised of electrical devices such as wires, batteries, resistors, and switches. Conventional current will flow through a complete closed-loop path (closed circuit) from high potential to low potential, therefore electrons actually flow in the opposite direction, from low potential to high potential. If there the path isn’t a closed loop (open circuit), no charge will flow.
Electric circuits, which are three-dimensional constructs, are typically represented in two dimensions using diagrams known as circuit schematics. These schematics are simplified, standardized representations in which common circuit elements are represented with specific symbols, and wires connecting the elements in the circuit are represented by lines. Basic circuit schematic symbols are shown below:
In order for current to flow through a circuit, you must have a source of potential difference. Typical sources of potential difference are voltaic cells, batteries (which are just two or more cells connected together), and (voltage) supplies. We often times refer to voltaic cells as batteries in common terminology. In drawing a cell or battery on a circuit schematic, remember that the longer side of the symbol is the positive terminal.
Electric circuits must form a complete conducting path in order for current to flow. In the example circuit shown below left, the circuit is incomplete because the switch is open, therefore no current will flow and the lamp will not light. In the circuit below right, however, the switch is closed, creating a closed loop path. Current will flow and the lamp will light up.
Note that in the picture above right, conventional current will flow from positive to negative, creating a clockwise current path in the circuit. The actual electrons in the wire, however, are flowing in the opposite direction, or counter-clockwise.
In textbook circuits, one usually sees the entire closed path. However in many professional , the path is not shown as closed. Rather ground symbols are used to indicate a common zero voltage for the circuit, like this:
The ground symbols are the downward pointing “arrows” at the bottom. Frequently, but not always, this indicates the same voltage as the negative end of the battery or power supply.
This is a common source of confusion for those who have not worked with circuit diagrams that depict ground, but it greatly simplifies the drawing of complicated circuits.

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