Many real-world networks such as the protein–protein interaction networks and metabolic networks often display nontrivial correlations between degrees of vertices connected by edges. Here, we analyse the statistical methods used usually to describe the degree correlation in the networks, and analytically give linear relation in the degree correlation. It provides a simple and interesting perspective on the analysis of the degree correlation in networks, which is usefully complementary to the existing methods for degree correlation in networks. Especially, the slope in the linear relation corresponds exactly to the degree correlation coefficient in networks, meaning that it can not only characterize the level of degree correlation in networks, but also reflects the speed that the average nearest neighbours’ degree varies with the vertex degree. Finally, we applied our results to several real-world networks, validating the conclusions of the linear analysis of degree correlation. We hope that the work in this paper can be helpful for further understanding the degree correlation in complex networks.