Graphical representation of Data: Meaning & Importance

Graphical Representation of Data

Graphical Representation of Data

Apart from diagrams, Graphic presentation is another way of the presentation of data and information. Usually, graphs are used to present time series and frequency distributions. In this article, we will look at the graphic presentation of data and information along with its merits, limitations, and types.

Construction of a Graph

The graphic presentation of data and information offers a quick and simple way of understanding the features and drawing comparisons. Further, it is an effective analytical tool and a graph can help us in finding the mode, median, etc.

We can locate a point in a plane using two mutually perpendicular lines-the X-axis (the horizontal line) and the Y-axis (the vertical line). Their point of intersection is the Origin.

We can locate the position of a point in terms of its distance from both these axes. For example, if a point P is 3 units away from the Y-axis and 5 units away from the X-axis, then its location is as follows:

Points to remember

We measure the distance of the point from the Y-axis along the X-axis. Similarly, we measure the distance of the point from the X-axis along the Y-axis. Therefore, to measure 3 units from the Y-axis, we move 3 units along the X-axis and likewise for the other coordinate. We then draw perpendicular lines from these two points. The point where the perpendiculars intersect is the position of the point P.

We denote it as follows (3, 5) or (abscissa, ordinate). Together, they are the coordinates of the point P.

The four parts of the plane are Quadrants. Also, we can plot different points for a different pair of values.

General Rules for Graphic Presentation of Data and Information

There are certain guidelines for an attractive and effective graphic presentation of data and information. These are as follows:

  1. Suitable Title– Ensure that you give a suitable title to the graph which clearly indicates the subject for which you are presenting it.
  2. Unit of Measurement– Clearly state the unit of measurement below the title.
  3. Suitable Scale– Choose a suitable scale so that you can represent the entire data in an accurate manner.
  4. Index– Include a brief index which explains the different colors and shades, lines and designs that you have used in the graph. Also, include a scale of interpretation for better understanding.
  5. Data Sources– Wherever possible, include the sources of information at the bottom of the graph.
  6. Keep it Simple- You should construct a graph which even a layman (without any exposure in the areas of statistics or mathematics) can understand.
  7. Neat– A graph is a visual aid for the presentation of data and information. Therefore, you must keep it neat and attractive. Choose the right size, right lettering, and appropriate lines, colors, dashes, etc.

Merits of a Graph

The graph presents data in a manner which is easier to understand.

  1. It allows us to present statistical data in an attractive manner as compared to tables. Users can understand the main features, trends, and fluctuations of the data at a glance.
  2. A graph saves time.
  3. It allows the viewer to compare data relating to two different time-periods or regions.
  4. The viewer does not require prior knowledge of mathematics or statistics to understand a graph.
  5. We can use a graph to locate the mode, median, and mean values of the data.
  6. It is useful in forecasting, interpolation, and extrapolation of data.

Limitations of a Graph

  1. A graph lacks complete accuracy of facts.
  2. It depicts only a few selected characteristics of the data.
  3. We cannot use a graph in support of a statement.
  4. A graph is not a substitute for tables.
  5. Usually, laymen find it difficult to understand and interpret a graph.
  6. Typically, a graph shows the unreasonable tendency of the data and the actual values are not clear.

Utility of Graphical Presentation

The diagram occupy an important place in statistical method, because

  1. They are attractive and impressive– Diagrams are attractive and create lasting impression. A person who does not like to devote even a single minute to the study of a page containing numerical tables, in most cases would not like to take his eyes away from an attractively constructed diagram even from the same data. They do not strain the mind of the observer. Besides being attractive, they have propaganda and publicity value. A common man who does not want to indulge in figures, gets message from a well prepared diagram.
  2. They make data simple and intelligible– Diagrams have the merit of rendering the whole data readily intelligible. The mass of complex data, when depicted through a diagram, an be understood easily. Diagrams bring forth the characteristics of data. For example, if a study is made of the expenditure pattern of two families with the help of figures it will not be very clear, but when figures are translated through the media diagram, the difference between their expenditure patterns will be at once clear.
  3. They make comparison possible– Diagrams make comparison between two sets of data possible. This is one of the objectives of a diagrammatic presentation. In absolute figures, the comparison is sometimes not very clear, but diagrammatic presentation makes it simpler and easier. For example, the data on prices may not be very clear to a common man, but when they are shown in a diagram, the rise or fall in the prices is visible at a glance.
  4. They save time and labour- Diagrammatic presentation saves a lot of time which could have been otherwise lost in grasping the significance of numerical data. Without straining one’s mind, the basic features of the data can be understood. The data which will take hours to understand them, their diagrammatic presentation will make their basic characteristics clear in minutes.
  5. They have universal utility- Diagrammatic presentation of statistical data is practiced universally. It is a widely used technique in economic, business, administration, social and other fields.
  6. They give more information- A diagram depicts more information than the data shown in a table. It clarifies the existing trend in the data and how the trend changes. Though such information is there in the tables also, but to find out trend from them is a difficult and a time-consuming job.

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