11.6 Reading and Drawing Graphs and Charts—A Summary

You have had plenty of practice at reading graphs and charts in this unit, and you’ll meet lots more graphs and charts as you study, or in newspapers, magazines, or the Internet. Take time to make sure that you understand what the graph is telling you.

Here are the steps summarized so that you can refer to them later:

Reading a Chart or Graph

  • Read the title of the chart and check the source of the data.
  • Check the axes. What is being measured? What units have been used?
  • Examine the scales. How should these be interpreted? What does each interval represent?
  • Check the key or legend. What does the shading or line represent?
  • Finally, examine the chart or graph itself, reading off the information that you need. Are you looking for a specific value or a trend or some other information?

You have also created graphs by hand. You may prefer to use a computer to draw your graphs and charts. There are many exciting ways to present data, but the important points listed below still apply whether you are drawing graphs by hand or by using software.

Drawing Graphs and Charts

  • Include a clear title—so that your reader can see at a glance whether this chart is the one they are interested in.
  • Include the source of the data—so that your reader can make further checks on how the data was collected if they wish.
  • Choose the simplest graph or chart that illustrates the point you wish to emphasize.
  • Label axes with both words and units.
  • Mark scales clearly, choosing a scale that is easy to interpret.
  • Include a legend if you have used more than one type of shading or line.

Look out for real-life graphs and charts in newspapers, magazines, on television, or on the Internet. Do these graphs follow the guidelines? Can you understand what the graphs are illustrating?

11.6.1 Reading a Graph with Caution!