While graphs are effective in making data interpretation easy, they’re not for everyone. A lot of people struggle with understanding what graphs mean and what they’re trying to show.
If your next project involves making graphs, it’s not enough to find the best graph maker around. You also need to know how to interpret charts and graphs using the following tips:
1. Read the graph’s title
This will help you determine the kind of information the graph is trying to relay. It could be the quantity of plants you sold in a month or the number of books you were able to read in a week.
A graph’s title is short, clear, and direct. You won’t have a lot of problems determining what it means.
2. Take a good look at the keys
It’s not a good idea to write what each symbol or color means on the actual graph. Doing that will just make it look too crowded and overwhelming.
Instead of writing on the actual graph, people write signs, symbols, and colors in a box next to the graph. You can take a look at it to determine what each symbol means.
Sometimes, instead of keys, colors are used to represent data. If that is the case, look for a key that tells what each color means.
There are online tools that make creating and interpreting data in graphs easier and faster. Venngage, for example, has templates you can use when you have to make science data tables and graphs.
3. Read the labels
Proper labeling will tell you what parameters or variables are being shown. For example, on a line graph that shows the number of plants sold in a specific month, the x-axis can be used to show the days of the month. On the other hand, the y-axis may be used to tell the number of plants sold.
In the case of a circle chart, the percentage of the circle may show the number of plants sold by colors in a specific month. For example, 50% of the plants may be green, 30% are blue, and 20% are yellow.
4. Take a look at the measurements
Measurement scale is a critical part of the data collection process. It’s equally important in analysis and presentation, too.
Take note that there are 4 types of variables- nominal, ordinal, discrete, and continuous. Each of these variables has different applications.
Nominal and ordinal variables are considered qualitative data. They typically show the properties or qualities of the data. Usually, they are represented by a number code, name or symbol.
Discrete and continuous, on the other hand, are categorized as quantitative data. These are data you’d find expressed in numbers. Good examples are body temperature, age, and blood pressure.
Understanding data type is important for you to analyze data sets using the right statistical methods. It will also help you understand if the data you’re trying to assess in your graphs and charts make sense.
5. Draw your conclusions
Your conclusion should be based on your data and you should be able to draw it faster than you would with a written description.
On a line graph, for example, you can easily see that a specific color rose the highest while the other one rose the lowest.
In the case of a bar graph, you can also easily see which bar grew the highest. For circle charts, on the other hand, you can easily tell your conclusions by looking at the portions.
In making conclusions and summarizing, the key is to look for a trend that stands out. Check for any piece of information and start drawing your conclusion from there.
If you are not used to interpreting data and graphs, you might struggle in summarizing information with your own words at first. If this is the case, there’s nothing wrong with starting over.
When going through the chart and data again, try to take your time investigating the pieces of information. Make sure that you aren’t overlooking the most important details of the graph.
6. Use your own words
In drawing conclusions, it’s a good idea to improve your vocabulary. For example, if a graph is showing trends, rates or any amount of change, words like ‘go up’ and ‘rise’ are good to include in your summary.
For any decrease, consider using words like ‘decline’, ‘fall’, ‘drop’, and ‘go down’.
For a small change, you can describe it as “insignificant”, “minor”, “slight”, “unimportant”, or “slow”. For abrupt or large changes, words like “major”, “significant”, “rapid”, “steep”, and “sharp” are good to use.
In case there’s very little change, you can just describe the situation or event as “stable”.
In describing pieces of information that aren’t accurate, words such as “roughly”, “around”, “just over”, “just under”, and “approximately” are good to use. If you can’t find a single trend and all you see are fluctuations, you can describe it as “going up and down” or “like waves”.