Principles

HOW TO GRAPH
Principles | Components


As is the case when planning a table, Klass (2012) writes that there are three main principles to keep in mind when planning to make a chart or graph. They are captured by just three words: meaningfulunambiguous, and efficient. Let us briefly look at each of these words in the context of three simple sentences.

PRINCIPLE #1: The data in your chart or graph must be MEANINGFUL.

Being ‘meaningful’ means having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose. In addition to the word meaningful, you might also think of words like significant, relevant, consequential, telling, valid, and/or worthwhile. In other words, when planing to make a chart or graph in science, you need think about choosing data to chart or graph that will be of direct use in helping you formulate an answer to your research question.

IMPORTANT NOTE – As you might suspect, one of the questions Dr. Merritt will ask himself when evaluating the charts and graphs you create in class is this: Did you choose to chart or graph data that will be of direct use in helping you formulate an answer to your research question?

PRINCIPLE #2: The data in your chart or graph must be UNAMBIGUOUS.

‘Unambiguous’ means not open to more than one interpretation. In addition to the word unambiguous, you might also think of words or phrases like clear, clear-cutcrystal clear, obvious, straightforward, transparent, evidentunmistakable, and/or distinct. In other words, when planing to make a chart or graph in science, you need think carefully about defining the data presented in your chart or graph with both clarity and precision.

IMPORTANT NOTE – As you might suspect, one of the questions Dr. Merritt will ask himself when evaluating the chart or graphs you create in class is this: Did you take steps to define the data presented in your chart or graph with both clarity and precision?

PRINCIPLE #3: Your chart or graph must be EFFICIENT.

‘Efficient’ means achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. In addition to the word efficient, you might also think of words or phrases like effectual, potent, productive, and not wasteful. In other words, when planing to make a chart or graph in science, you need think about presenting data in a manner that allows readers to grasp the meaning of the data in a timely fashion.

IMPORTANT NOTE – As you might suspect, one of the questions Dr. Merritt will ask himself when evaluating the charts or graphs you create in class is this: Did you present data in a manner that allows readers to grasp the meaning of the data in a timely fashion?


SUMMARY

In this science class, good charts or graphs are defined as those that carefully attend to “the efficient display of meaningful and unambiguous data” (Klass, 2012). As you will see on the components page of the charts and graphs section, meaning, ambiguity, and efficiency are traits that can be managed by paying close attention to things like chart titles, axis titles, axis scales, axis labels, legends, gridlines, and other chart elements.


Sources

Klass, Gary M. (2012). Just Plain Data Analysis: Finding, Presenting & Interpreting Social Science Data (2nd edition). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers: New York. ISBN: 978-1-4422-1509-2 (electronic book)

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