Communicating Data Clearly

Location: 120-121
Average rating: ****.
(4.05, 20 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

This tutorial begins by reviewing human perception and our ability to decode graphical information. It continues by:

• Ranking elementary graphical perception tasks to identify those that we do the best.
• Showing the limitations of many common graphical constructions.
• Demonstrating newer, more effective graphical forms developed on the basis of the ranking.
• Providing general principles for creating effective graphs, as well as metrics on the quality of graphs with a checklist of possible defects.
• Commenting on software packages that produce graphs.
• Comparing the same data using different graph forms so the audience can see how understanding depends on the graphical construction used.
• Discussing Trellis Display (a framework for the visualization of multivariate data) and other innovative methods for presenting more than two variables.
• Presenting Mosaic Plots and other graphical methods for categorical data.

Since scales (the rulers along which we graph the data) have a profound effect on our interpretation of graphs, the section on general principles contains a detailed discussion of scales including:
• To include or not to include zero?
• When do logarithmic scales improve clarity?
• What are breaks in scales and how should they be used?
• Are two scales better than one? How can we distinguish between informative and deceptive double axes?

The tutorial concludes with before and after examples that are appropriate for the audience.

Participants will learn to:
• Present data more effectively in all media.
• Understand principles of effective simple graphs to build upon when creating interactive or dynamic displays.
• Become more critical and analytical when viewing graphs.
• Recognize misleading and deceptive graphs.

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Naomi Robbins


Naomi B. Robbins is the author of Creating More Effective Graphs, published by Chart House (originally by Wiley.) She is a consultant, keynote speaker, and seminar leader who specializes in the graphical display of data. She trains employees of corporations and organizations on the effective presentation of data with customized programs. She also reviews documents and presentations for clients, suggesting improvements or alternative presentations as appropriate. Naomi received her Ph.D. in mathematical statistics from Columbia University, M.A. from Cornell University, and A.B. from Bryn Mawr College. She had a long career at Bell Laboratories before forming NBR, her consulting practice. Naomi was recently voted chair-elect of the Statistical Graphics Section of the American Statistical Association.

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Naomi Robbins
18-11-2014 19:26 CET

Best practices do not necessarily depend on the subject matter of the data. Although just a few slides show examples of social media data, there will many best practices and many graphical mistakes that apply to any data.

Dani Alier
18-11-2014 18:44 CET

I’d like to know if there will be time dedicated to talk on best practices when showing social media data (twitter,…)