Create A Graph – A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Numbers

October 27th, 2010

You have data! The problem is pulling meaning out of it. The data has no value if you don’t understand it.

The solution is to visualize the data. One of the quickest way to do that is with graphs . Graphs have a way of letting you visualize the information that is hidden within the confusion of numbers.


Types Of Graphs

There are a number of types of graphs. Each has its strengths and weaknesses . The following list shows the most used graphs with their pros and cons:

                                                Pros                                                                                        Cons

Line Graphs       Great for seeing trends and seasonality in data.                     Not good with small quantities of data.

Pie Graphs         Good for showing the percentage of the whole.                      One trick pony! No other uses.

Bar Graphs         Better with small amounts of data.                                           Not good with large amounts of data.


Uses For Graphs

Graphs have an amazingly large number of uses. Some of these are listed below:

  1. Show direction over time.
  2. Illustrates data seasonality.
  3. A visualization of volatility.
  4. A predictor of what could happen next .
  5. What portion each part is of everything .
  6. A means of making comparisons between multiple sets of numbers .
  7. Shows when a preset standard is being met.
  8. Provides a starting point for regression analysis.
  9. Initial analysis for curve fitting.
  10. Helps visualize the relationship between two or more variables.
  11. Simplifies reporting .
  12. Helps discover opportunities.

The Language Of Graphs

Graphs have a number of terms that it is necessary to know to fully understand what graphs are. Most of the terms used come right out of your algebra textbook. If you know algebra, then you probably already understand these terms. If you don’t know algebra then you need to learn nomenclature .

X – It is common practice to call the horizontal values x.

Y – The vertical values are referred to as the y values.

X-axis – This is the horizontal line which separates the y plus values from the y minus values.

Y-axis – This is the vertical line which separates the x plus values from the x minus values.

Slope – This is simply the slant of the graph. A plus value says the graph is rising. A negative value says the graph is falling.

Variables – These are the two part values consisting of a dependent variable and an independent variable. An example is a graph of monthly expenses. The x variable is the month and the y variable is the expense. A datum might be February for $3000. When March comes along, the value could be $2500.

How To Create A Graph

It used to be necessary to have graph paper to create a graph. Now we have computers . Spreadsheets, specifically Excel, are often used to create computer graphs. Web resources are available to create your graph and even print it on your own printer.


When you create a graph you have transformed your data into something visual. When it is visual, it is much more understandable for a human . You have converted your data into something that communicates much more clearly. You make a line graph to show the relationship between variables.  You make a pie graph to show the proportion of a part to the whole.

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