Charts, Figures, Graphs, Tables

Charts and graphs are methods of data visualization:

  1. Tables plot data or information in rows and columns
  2. Charts, Figures, and Graphs visually represent data or information. Common examples of charts include pie charts, bar charts, and line charts

Key Concepts: Text & Intertextuality; Design

Tables and graphs enable you to reach visual learners. When you select information for graphical representation, you are highlighting its significance. In some disciplines, particularly the sciences, readers expect authors to condense complicated information into charts and graphs. Many readers will scan a document’s charts, tables, and graphs before reading any text.

Today’s modern word processors offer powerful tools for developing attractive charts and graphs.

Use Charts and Graphs to Emphasize Important Information

Understand how and when to use charts and graphs

Graphs and tables can be used to emphasize important information. For example, in a report on population growth, you could explain that according to the United Nations, the rate of population growth has decreased since the 1970s. Worried that you are luring your readers into a false sense of security, you could nonetheless report that by 2030 the world population may expand from 6 to 8 billion. In contrast, though, imagine a visual that represents this trend–i.e., declining birth rates in contrast to the percentage increase of the world population:

Organizational Charts

Understand how and when to use charts and graphs

Use charts to clarify complicated points, to emphasize significant results, and to offer a shorthand version of the gist of the information you are reporting. For example, Michael Bain uses the following visual to clarify his purpose and give his readers a visual way to read his text, How MP3 Players Work

Understand how and when to use charts and graphs

Comparison Charts

Charts can be used to illustrate key points. For example, in Fatality Facts: Teenagers as of 2001, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a graph that summarizes the gist of its report:

“Teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high.”

Beneath the above graph, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a link to the plot points so that viewers can see exactly what numbers are illustrated in the graph. They also provide a detailed narrative discussion of the results and enable users to select tables that pop open the results presented in table formats.

Understand how and when to use charts and graphs

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