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Column/Bar Graph


Column graphs typically have two axis, an x-axis (horizontal) and
y-axis (vertical). The x-axis is usually labelled with the categories
being compared. The y-axis is usually labelled with the frequency, or
value of each category. In bar graphs, it is the other way around
(thus, the bars are horizontal,
However, the terms bar and column are usually used interchangeably. In
both bar and column graphs, the greater the height, the greater the

Bar graphs are used to highlight separate quantities, especially the
differences between these quantities. They are extremely useful for
comparing quantities in different categories, and can be used to
describe the relationship of several variables at once. The data
typically being represented is the number of "occurrences" measured in
different categories of data. They are used in almost every field.

- Excellent for data comparison (esp. vertical bar graphs)
- Labelling for clarification possible with horizontal bar graphs
- Clearly show error values in the data
- Usually simple to read and understand

- Can be tempting to compare too many things, graph becomes convoluted
and difficult to understand
- Limited space for labelling with vertical bar graphs

3-D Bar Graphs ( Used to
add visual flair to the graphs, but tends to make the graph harder to
read. They are used in almost every field.

3-Axis Bar Graphs: Includes an extra z-axis. Used for comparison of

categories with two changing properties. Can be extremely confusing
for the viewer. They are used primarily in business when demonstrating
for example, the success of a product as a function of two properties.

Stacked Bar Graphs (

Used to show segments of totals. Usually used for percentages.
However, they can misrepresent data and confuse the viewer. There are
much better ways of presenting segment data. Should be avoided if
possible. They are used primarily in business to show product data.

Line/Dot Bar Graphs (

Same function as a bar graph. The advantage of this type of graph is
that it is graphically very simple, and should be used if there is a
lot of things being compared so the focus is on the data, not the
graph itself. They are used in almost every field.

Histograms (
Very similar to bar graphs, except there is no space between bars.
Used to show the frequency distribution of a continuous variable (i.e.
the heights of students in a class). They are used a lot in
statistical work and demographics.

Pictograms (
Used to represent the same information as a bar graph, except in a
more visially appealing way. Pictures are used to represent values.
The legend involves defining what each symbol represents. Must be done
visually accurate so not to misrepresent data. Symbols chosen are
usually pertinent to the data itself. They are used in almost every

Line Graph

One of the most popular types of graphs, line graphs have two axis.
The horizontal (x-axis) is for the independent variable, and the
vertical axis (y-axis) is for the dependent variable. Points on the
graph are connected by lines, hence the name.

Line graphs are typically used to show how a value changes over time,
though the independent variable can really be anything. In a generaly
sense, they are used to show how one value changes as another changes
uniformly or incrementaly. They are used in almost every field.

- Show specific values of data well
- Reveal trends and relationships between data
- Compare trends in different groups of a variable
- Clearly show error values in the data
- Usually simple to read and understand

- Inconsistent scales/different scale start points can distort the
data so it is interpreted incorrectly (biased)
- Multiple lines on the graph, especially unrelated can be confusing
- Labelling tends to convolute graphs, difficult to discern exact values for data

Area Line Graph (
These graphs the same information as a normal line graph, except the
area underneath them is shaded. They are used to visually emphasize
the difference between the lines. Notice in the example that Product Y
and Product X approach the same value. The greater the amount of a
colour, the greater the difference between two lines. Typically used
when the lines represent very similar things, such as products.

Surface Graph (

A surface graph enables you to show a trend in data across two
dimensions in a continuous curve. Modelling a value as a function of
its horizontal and vertical location is a primary example of its use.

Pie Graph

Pie graphs, in their simplest form, are circles subdivided into
different coloured regions. The greater the slices area, the greater
the categories' value.

Pie charts are typically used to summarize categorical data, or even
more often, percentile data. The components have to add up to make a
"whole" of sorts or else the graph becomes meaningless (ex. student
population, market segment, etc...). A chunk may be seperated from the
rest of the pie to indicate its significance. They are used in almost
every field.

- Provides an excellent visual concept of a whole
- Clear comparison of different components
- Highlight information by visual seperation of a segment
= Easy to label, lots of space

- Comparing pie graphs is very difficult as pie graphs indicate
components' sizes relative to each other, not to some absolute value
- Too many segments is difficult to read, hard to label; better off
using a bar graph
- Difficult to understand without labels (especially with similarly sized
- Hard to illustrate error values

3D Pie Graphs ( 3D pie graphs add
a level of "sophistication" to the chart (though, nowadays, it's so
commonplace that it is more often misused). The added perspective
however, tends to artifically inflate the size of the segments on the
top and bottom of the circle and artificially minimize the segments on
the side. The severity of this distortion depends on how heavily the
3D is applied. They are used in almost every field.

Donut Graph
A visual variation on a pie graph, conveys the same information.
Information can be placed in the middle of the donut to draw attention
to it. They are used a lot in advertisement.