Report Writing Diagrams
The first thing to decide when choosing how to present your data is:
What story do I want to tell the reader?
So for instance you might want the reader to:
Please do download the excel file below to play with the data and change the graph types.
The best place to get advice on using most software is to search on youtube.
Input your data into excel then play around with the various graph settings.
In order to make the graphs more useful you are better picking the option to put them on a separate sheet.
Once you have the excel graphs made the easiest way to get to the options to edit them is to right click on the graph.
You'll find that the default font sizes in excel mean that when you transfer the graph to your report the writing may be illegible. To avoid this click on the whole graph and increase the font size to probably about 18 or 20. If any of the text disappears you need to grab the text box it's in and resize it.
To add extra text just click on the graph and type, you need to press return before it appears on the graph.
Saving excel charts as pictures:
To get your graphs into your report you need to output them in a graphical format, you have several options. You can click on the graph and use copy and paste. You can use print screen but this usually isn't as good as a normal copy and paste. The best technique is to use print to pdf but you need to have install a pdf printer first. You can get the official adobe version (acrobat professional) but this is very expensive or there are several freeware versions that do print to pdf (pdf creator is a good one). Another alternative is to create a web page of the excel file and this will automatically give you gif images of all the graphs in a separate subdirectory to the one you choose for the web version of the excel file.
Ideas for comparing data
You need to consider the amount of data but bar (or column) graphs are often the best choice as they are very easy to see big differences. Column graphs should be those with the columns vertical and bar with them horizontal but most people would call all of them bar charts or graphs.
A line graph can be used but they are not quite so visual, they are better though for larger numbers of data sets. In excel you need to be careful - the line graph doesn't use the scale - it just puts all of the data the same distance apart on the x-axis. If you want the x-axis to represent your data then use a scatter diagram (see below).
Figure 1: 3D bar chart with data expressed as percentages.
Figure 2: 3D column graph with the data in separate columns
Figure 3:2D column graph
Figure 4:A line graph - see how the x-axis equally spaces the data even though it isn't linear.
Usually you would want a scatter graph.
Figure 5: A scatter diagram, this now spaces the x-axis in proportion to the data and has spaces for the missing data rather than contracting the x-axis.
Again bar charts can be useful (see figures 1 to 3).
You might also want to consider pie charts and doughnut graphs.
Figure 6: A pie chart, a good visual chart for relative proportions.
Figure 7: A doughnut chart used to compare 2 sets of data, you can see that although the graphs are good at proportions for a single set of data, for comparisons of different sets you are much better off with the bar charts. A doughnut graph is a pie chart with a hole in so you can fit more than one on the same graph.
Reading data off the charts
To allow your reader to read data off a graph then you need to use bar graphs (figures 1-3 ) and scatter diagrams (figure 5). Make sure you don't give just a line graph (figure 4) where the axis are not in proportion to the data as you reader may miss that fact and make mistakes. You might want to consider putting in a table of the actual data either at the point of the graph or in an appendix/web page.
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