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Using graphs, diagrams and images

Sometimes words aren't the most effective way to communicate. Using graphs, diagrams and charts can help your reader to get a clearer picture of your research findings and how they compare with other data.

Tables are useful when you need to present a quantity of numerical data in an accessible format and you need to show exact numbers.

Line graphs are especially effective at showing trends (how data changes over time) and relationships (how two variables interact).

line_graph

Bar charts/graphs are good when you want to compare discrete items. The bars can be vertical or horizontal. Making them different colours can help the reader to differentiate each result.

bar_chart

Pie charts show the proportion of the whole that is taken by various parts.

pie_chart

Drawings and diagrams can be used to reinforce or supplement textual information, or where something is more clearly shown in diagrammatic form. (images by Eric Pierce)

diagram

Photographs can be useful as illustrations that help to explain what is being discussed in the text. (image by K Kiser)

photo

Layout, labelling and referencing

All graphs, charts, drawings, diagrams and photographs should be numbered consecutively as Figures according to where they come in the text (e.g. Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3 etc). All tables should be numbered using a separate sequence (e.g. Table 1, Table 2 etc).

Make sure all your images are large enough, and of a high enough quality, to be read easily and that they are labelled clearly to explain what they show.

You will need to reference any diagrams and photos you use if they are not your own work.

Quiz

Using graphical data

Look at the following images and identify what's wrong with them. Why are they not suitable for an academic report?

Click the question headers below to proceed:

Question 1

What's wrong with this graph?

(Tick all that apply)

diagram

That's right well done!

 

Incorrect!

The correct answers are:

  1. There is no title
  2. The Y axis has no label
  3. The X axis doesn't have enough information

Question 2

What's wrong with these photographs?

(Tick all that apply)

diagram

That's right well done!

 

Incorrect!

The correct answer is:

  1. They do not add any useful information

Question 3

What's wrong with this diagram?

(Tick all that apply)

diagram

That's right well done!

 

Incorrect!

The correct answers are:

  1. It's not labeled properly
  2. It needs a 'total' column
  3. The table needs a title explaining it

Next page - Showing critical analysis