ITGS Syllabus

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Topic 69

Use of the appropriate graph or chart for the meaningful representation of information by Harsh Sharma

In today’s world, collecting data or information is almost as easy as going to a convenient store and buying a pack of gum. Through Internet, a person can collect and view any kind of data right from his home. However, the raw data doesn’t have any value until it’s properly organized and represented. Word and Excel do a great job of collecting and organizing data, however, it is upon the person to choose the right graph or chart to represent that information.

Thankfully, a word processor already includes the “Table” function and all the user has to do is select that function and the table will be created in a second. Putting the data into the table is a very easy task and elementary kids have excelled at it. However, that’s how far word processors go with providing options to represent information. A table in a word processor can only be used for small amount of data and it would be a very exhausting task to create multiple tables in order to represent a large amount of information.

Therefore, when it comes to representing large amount of information in an organized manner, spreadsheets take place of word processors. Word processors should mainly be used for reports and proposals, and it’s use for representing statistics and information should be limited because there’s a program other than word processor that does a much better job at it. Microsoft Excel, one of the best spreadsheet programs, has a wide variety of graphs and charts that could help represent any kind of information in a very concise and precise way. However, it is very important to select the right type of graph or chart otherwise the information would not be represented properly and it would lose it’s value.

Here’s a list of popular graphs/charts that Excel has to offer:

• Column
• Bar
• Line
• Pie
• XY (Scatter)
• Area
• Doughnut

Selecting the right type of chart can be a painful task sometimes because there is often an overlap between the types of charts. Therefore, here’s a brief description of each type of chart and when it should be used. (examples provided)

1. Column – A column chart is composed of vertical columns (no surprise there!) and it is used to observe data over time or under certain conditions. There is a limitation though that the data must be small because if there were too many columns, then it would be hard to figure out the chart. Example: Different grade levels provided and the number of students that go clubbing in each grade.

2. Bar – A bar chart is very similar to a column chart except it uses horizontal bars. It is also used to observe data over time or under certain conditions with limited data. It comes down to people’s preference when deciding between bar or column chart.

3. Line – A line chart is very different from column and bar charts because it is used to observe trends and/or functional relations over a period of time. There’s no limit in this kind of chart because data can be easily plotted by using a scale. Example: The inflation rate in USA from year 1950-2000. Use a scale of 5 years to 1 cm and 1% to 1 cm.

4. Pie – A pie chart is also very different as it compares proportional relationships at a point in time. The limitation for pie chart is that the time and conditions have to be the same otherwise the chart would hold no value because different conditions could have been the cause for different conditions, hence wrong data. A good thing about a pie chart is that segments can be pulled out of the pie to emphasize on a certain part. Example – Mc.Donald’s sales in the month of January in different countries. And the country with the biggest could be “pulled out” of the pie chart.

5. XY (Scatter) – This kind of chart shows correlation between two data sets (usually). There’s a different set of data on the X-axis and a different set of data on the Y-axis and the scatter points make it easy to compare the two different sets of data. It should be used to convey an overall view of the two sets of data. Example – Number of boys in each grade level at SMIS and number of girls in each grade level at SIS.

6. Area – An area chart is sort of like a line chart except that all the area is shaded because there’s usually more than one value on the chart. That’s why the areas are shaded in order to make the chart more presentable. It can also be used to represent how one set of data is divided into three/four different parts or vice-versa. Example – Number of seniors that attend school in February, March, April and May. Months would be on the x-axis and number of seniors on the y-axis and the four months will combine together as a whole to represent the declining number.

7. Doughnut – The charts mentioned above are the most popular and most used ones. The only reason this chart is being discussed is because it has a funny name. It is very much like a pie chart except that it can hold different series unlike the pie chart that can only hold proportions of the same series. Example – Sales figures in different fast food restaurants in different countries.

As explained above, it is very important to use the right amount of chart otherwise you won’t be able to present what you want to present. It has happened to me in the past and I don’t want it to happen to you. So use the right type of chart and live a happy life!

2 Comments:

Blogger XiaoxiaoLi said...

Your essay was very well worded and you simplified the topic nicely with the introduction paragraph, really opened the door on the use of graph/charts. Then goes the definitions of each of the different types. We all use those everyday, but not all of us know their exact implications. Very informative essay, good job!

January 08, 2007 12:44 AM  
Blogger Haider said...

nice and useful resource man! good job!

January 25, 2007 2:17 PM  

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