Choosing the Correct Method to Intuitively Communicate Data Patterns.
Many options exist to intuitively communicate patterns in data for enable strategic decision-making.
The following table recommends charts depending on your goals.
|Bar Chart||Simplest method for summarizing data, especially for a smaller number of categories and when you need to visually indicate each category’s full range of values (not just the highest value for each). Note: Use a pie chart or horizontal bar chart (bars display sideways) when numerous categories exist in the data to prevent the display from appearing indistinguishable. Vertical charts (bars display upright) can only contain a few bars for each category while remaining clear in the meaning.|
|Bar Chart – Comparison||Similar to a bar chart, but with the ability to display multiple trends simultaneously and over time. For example, a simple bar might display sales amounts for each year over a five year period. A Comparison Bar Chart could also display the same sales trend, but for each year multiple staff’s sales amounts.|
|Data Table||Display raw data or simple reports. Excel provides many powerful features for isolating and modifying data within a data table.
Data Tables may also communicate distributions (joint, marginal, conditional).
|Dot Plots||Similar to a bar chart, but dots are used instead of bars to indicate the full amounts within categories.|
|Histograms||These are a type of bar chart where each bar communicates a group of data points instead of one data point per bar.|
|Line Graph||Similar to a bar chart, but illustrates only the maximum value for of each category instead using a bar for the entire value. For example, a link graph could communicate an employee’s salary each year.|
|Ogive||Similar to a line chart in that it illustrates only the greatest of each category’s values instead using a bar for the entire value. Also, the ogive communicates an accumulation over time. For example, an ogive could communicate an employee’s accumulated earnings over many years.|
|Pie Chart||Simplest method for summarizing data. Note: Use a pie chart or horizontal bar chart (bars display sideways) when numerous categories exist in the data to prevent the display from appearing indistinguishable. Vertical charts (bars display upright) can only contain a few bars for each category while remaining clear in the meaning.|
|Relative Frequency Tables||A data table communicating an ongoing trend of occurrences. For example, this type of table could display how often a product was purchased, when, for a certain price, etc. Also, these tables can include cumulative frequency, or a running-total of values with respect to occurrences (with each occurrence, the grand total increases/decreases).|
|Stem-and-Leaf Plots||Quick, non-graphic method of summarizing data.|
|Venn Diagram||Visually display complexities within data related to related classifications. For example, where most charts (bar) display data points as either within a category or another, venn diagrams provide the ability to display data points sharing membership within multiple categories/classifications.|