The aim of this paper is to evaluate the use of trace diagrams for analysing collaborative problem solving. The paper describes a study where trace diagrams were used to analyse joint navigation in a virtual environment. Ten pairs of undergraduates worked together on a distributed virtual task to collect five flowers using two bees with each participant controlling one of the bees. This task is used extensively in research on multi-robot systems. The joint navigation of the pairs was analysed using trace diagrams. They showed that more successful pairs divided the task up, showed very little overlap and very little backtracking. Whereas, the less successful pairs, showed no task division, there was significant overlap and extensive backtracking. From this analysis we developed numerical measures of task division, overlap and backtracking. Task division was significantly and negatively related with task performance. Backtracking and overlap were significantly and positively correlated. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.