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Data Visualization Resources: Types of Charts and Graphs for Data Viz

A guide to resources from TUL and elsewhere to help users create interesting and informative data visualizations.

Charts and Graphs

Four Basic Chart Categories
  1. Comparison
  2. Composition
  3. Distribution
  4. Relationship
Charts for each category can overlap. Depending on the data and what you are trying to show pick the best option (chart). This information merely offers a suggestion of charts to try and is in no way exhaustive of every option available. 
 
For more charts, graphs and design tips on how to make the most impact with your chart please see Jami Oetting's Data Visualization 101: How to Choose the Right Chart or Graph for Your Data

Comparison Charts

These charts are used to compare values, to find the highest and lowest point in the data, and to compare increasing and decreasing values over time.

  • Column Charts –Better for smaller data sets. Oriented vertically.
  • Bar Charts– Better for complex/detailed data sets, long x-axis labels and negative values. Oriented horizontally.
  • Line Charts– Analyzing trends or progress over time.
  • Choropleth–  Good for displaying geographical data where each region, state or country has associated categorical or numerical data. 

Example of a Chloropleth

Example of a chloropleth map

Composition Charts

These charts are used to compare a part to a whole, usually in percentages, with all the segments equaling to 100%. 

  • Pie Charts –  Better for smaller data sets in order to make differences between variables clear.
  • Tree Maps – Better for displaying larger data sets. Grouped by color according to characteristic or value.
  • Stacked Bar Charts – Better for cumulative values including displaying multiple levels of the same variable. 

Distribution Charts

These charts are used to illustrate correlation between quantitative data points and for distribution analysis in identifying values such as mean, median, range, outliers, etc. 

  • Line Charts– Analyzing trends or progress over time. 
  • Scatter Plots – good for highlighting the similarities across variables and smaller data sets (usu. two variables).
  • Bar Histogram – Shows the distribution or relationship of a single variable over a set of ranges or categories. I.e. Height in inches by age range. 
Example of a Bar Histogram
Example of a Bar Histogram Chart

Relationship Charts

These charts are used to illustrate the relationship or correlation between two or  more variables. Good for identifying outliers and trends in clusters of data. 

  • Scatter Plots – good for highlighting the similarities across variables and smaller data sets (usu. two variables).
  • Bubble Chart– displays three or more dimensions of data by using color to sort data into categories.  The larger the bubble, the higher the percentage of total value that variable holds. 

Example of a Bubble Chart

Example of a Bubble Chart