Content Analysis: Determining Graphing Objectives

WebFOCUS offers a range of reporting tools that allow you to create reports that deliver critical information to your users. By selecting a tool that is well suited to your particular needs, you can design the information you deliver to users. One effective option with almost any type of data is a graphic presentation.

Graphs allow you to display multivariate or complex data efficiently, precisely, and in a way that a viewer can intuitively grasp. A graph is an effective presentation tool because it presents a visual idea, communicating meaningful changes in data to a user in a memorable way. By viewing your graph, a user can identify and track a change that you want them to notice.

Creating a meaningful graph is not simply a matter of applying aesthetics to your data. Instead, graphs allow you to design your presentation to capture the essential information in your data.

The first step in creating excellent graphics is determining your graphing objectives. You can break this process into several stages.

  1. Assess your data:

    Look for meaningful patterns or changes in the data. Does your data change most dramatically over time or in relationship to some other value? Are there two sets of data that you would like to compare to each other?

    Determine what movement or changes you would like to highlight. Which of the patterns in the data would you most want the viewer to picture?

  2. Select the graph type that best suits your argument and the overall shape of your data. Determine what will lead viewers to the cognitive task or connection that you want them to make.
  3. Begin developing your graph.
  4. Refine your graph:

    Are the labels meaningful or useful?

    How can the data be organized in a meaningful way? Consider customizing the scales you use with your graph.