When it comes to charting and graphing data, Dr. Merritt often encourages science students (and teachers) to heed the good advice of author and social scientist Gary Klass.
Klass has written a thoughtful, well-researched book on data analysis in which he devotes a couple of chapters to the presentation of data. In one chapter in particular (Chapter 6), he offers his readers sound advice about the creation of charts and graphs.
Although his 2012 book is explicitly aligned with work in the social sciences, his core principles and descriptions of chart components are highly relevant to the graphical work often undertaken by natural and physical scientists. The links included below draw much from the tips and advice offered by Klass in his book, but readers will also quickly see that Dr. Merritt has gathered and assembled tips, advice, and resources from a number of different sources from around (and beyond) the Internet.
ALL ABOUT CHARTS & GRAPHS
Regardless of the type of chart or graph you wish to construct, there are a few key graphing PRINCIPLES of which you need to be aware. There are also some elemental COMPONENTS that can be identified in most (but not all) types of graphs and charts. Before looking at chart and graph types (below), you should spend some time reading the content presented on these two pages.
CHART & GRAPH SELECTION
Selecting the type of chart or graph to use in your work is rarely straightforward. With so many different types of charts and graphs to choose from, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly which type is best to use. This GRAPH SELECTION page should help as it contains links to some user-friendly resources designed to help you select the most appropriate type of chart or graph for your data.
CHART & GRAPH TYPES
Pie charts are often one of the first chart types learned by beginning science students. However, unless the percentages represented in the chart are conventional (e.g., 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%), they can be difficult for younger students to construct by hand. Computers and hand-held devices have made making good pie charts infinitely easier (and faster), but Dr. Merritt’s middle school science students will also need to learn how to make them without the assistance of such devices.
SIMPLE BAR GRAPHS (or SIMPLE BAR CHARTS)
Simple bar graphs are commonly used charts in science. However, most students arrive in middle school having learned to create only one type of simple bar chart, the vertical bar graph. In Dr. Merritt’s classes you will learn how to make some of the other types of simple bar charts, such as horizontal bar graphs, range bar graphs, and histograms.
It might be useful to think of histograms as a special type of bar chart, but because they are pretty commonly used in middle school science (and history) textbooks, we will treat them as their own, separate category. They differ slightly from other types of bar graphs in some subtle, but very important ways.
LINE GRAPHS (or LINE CHARTS)
Another common type of graph/chart used in science, line graphs are often used to show trends or changes over a period of time, but they have other uses too. Dr. Merritt’s middle school science students will be expected to create many line graphs throughout the school year, both by hand and with a computer.
SCATTER PLOTS (or SCATTER GRAPHS or X/Y SCATTER PLOTS)
STACKED CHARTS (including stacked bar graphs and stacked area graphs)
BOXPLOTS (including box-and-whisker plots, stem-and-leaf plots)
Use the links below to see the grading rubrics Mr. M uses to evaluate your charts and graphs.
– Stacked bar graphs
– Stacked area graphs
– Box-and-whisker plots
– Stem-and-leaf plots
To gain access to more resources when composing all types of charts and graphs, visit THIS page.