Determine the best way to graph your data

Graphs are visual representations of data and information that can help you interpret and analyze complex concepts more easily.  

The type of graph you include in a paper, poster or presentation will depend on what concepts, relationships or results you are hoping to share with your audience.  

Show trends and changes over time 

Use a line graph to illustrate how data changes over time. This will highlight interesting trends or cycles in the information.  

Example: If you're studying how temperatures change throughout the year, a line graph would be ideal for illustrating this pattern.   

Show or make comparisons  

Use bar graphs for comparing different categories or groups. This will highlight how categories or groups are similar or different from each other.  

Example: If you want to compare the sales of different products, a bar graph can help you visualize the differences in sales numbers.  

Identify parts of a whole 

Use pie charts when you want to display parts of a whole and how each part contributes to the whole.  

Example: If you're analyzing the distribution of expenses in a budget, a pie chart can show the percentage of each expense category relative to the total budget.   

Present correlations  

Use scatterplots to visualize relationships between variables.

Example: If you're investigating the relationship between study hours and exam scores, a scatterplot can help you see if there's a correlation between the two variables.   

Show process and connections 

Use diagrams, such as flowcharts and Venn diagrams, to illustrate processes or relationships. 

Examples: A flowchart can depict the steps in a scientific experiment. A Venn diagram can show the overlap between different sets of data.

To get more comfortable with using graphs and diagrams you can practice reading and reviewing existing examples. Set aside time to review textbooks, online tutorials or interactive exercises.   You can also review strategies for reading graphs and diagrams

Speak to your instructors and TAs to get support building your skills with graphs and diagrams. You can also book an appointment with a Peer Success Coach to help you build this skill.