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Sociology 220 Feb 13, 2009 Prof. Brines MGH 231 Making Sense of Charts, Figures, and Graphs Pie chart Rare in research Common in media Hard to compare wedges (different orientations) Can’t show order Restrict to nominal variables An Unhelpful Pie Chart Pie Charts in politics

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sociology 220

Sociology 220

Feb 13, 2009

Prof. Brines

MGH 231

slide3

Pie chart

  • Rare in research
  • Common in media
  • Hard to compare wedges (different orientations)
  • Can’t show order
    • Restrict to nominal variables
slide5

Pie Charts in politics

  • Federal budget, from the website of the War Resisters’ League
  • Redrawn
slide6

Bar chart(column chart)

  • In research,more common than pie
  • Can show order
    • Appropriate for ordinal and interval
    • (as well as nominal)
  • Easy to compare vertical distances
slide7

Axis distortion

  • Start vertical above zero
    • Exaggerates all differences
  • Similar distortion:
    • Break vertical axis
slide8

Line chart(frequency polygon)

  • Common in research
  • Can show order
    • Appropriate for ordinal and interval variables
slide9

Bar vs. line: similarities

  • Bar and line charts almost equivalent
    • Start with a bar chart
      • Connect tops
      • remove bottoms
      • You get a line chart!
slide10

Bar vs. line: Differences

  • Line eases comparison of groups
slide11

Histograms

  • Like bar chart, except
    • Variable typically continuous
    • Bars touch
      • usually
    • Horizontal can represent equal class intervals (“bins”)
      • Bin shown by center value (e.g. 35.0)
      • Or by ends of class interval (e.g. 33.75-36.25)
slide15

Axis distortion in business

  • NASDAQ stock index, reported by Yahoo!
  • Redrawn
slide16

Graphics: Good advice

  • Be skeptical of
    • Stretched axes (honest aspect is 3:2; Tufte)
    • Axes that start or break above zero
    • Graphs that use 3-D
    • Graphs with many categories/numbers,consider a table instead of a graph