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A Guide to literature (and other resources) on graphical communication of statistical data and visualising technical information

A picture is worth a thousand words. Including visuals or graphics in your writing can often be the most effective way of demonstrating complex ideas and representing statistical data. Using graphs, diagrams and charts can help your reader gain a clearer picture of your research findings and how they compare with other data. Effective use of visuals and graphics to convey information is particularly important in STEM where often the data is too complex to clearly explain in written terms.

Examples of visual communication typically include: graphs, diagrams, images, photographs, data visualizations (e.g., data maps and plots), and time-series analysis.

In the introduction to the second edition of his classic The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (2001) Edward R. Tufte explains:

Data graphics visually display measured quantities by means of the combined use of points, lines, a coordinate system, numbers, symbols, words shading and color”.

Tufte goes further on the same page:

Modern data graphics can do much more than simply substitute for small statistical tables. At their best, graphics are instruments for reasoning about quantitative information. Often the most effective way to describe, explore and summarize a set of numbers — even a very large set — is to look at pictures of those numbers. Furthermore, of all methods for analyzing and communicating statistical information, well-designed data graphics are usually the simplest and at the same time the most powerful”.

The resources listed in this subject guide provide guidance and advice on how to effectively create and incorporate statistical graphics into your reports and assignments.