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Empirical investigations of the utility of three principles of "good graphing" [microform]
Bib ID 3283533
Format MicroformMicroform, BookBook
Jones, Russell Wardlaw
Description 166 p. 

Despite their existence for more than 200 years and their increasingly widespread use throughout much of our society (including the media, private industry, the military, government and educational organizations), little is known about what makes a graph effective at communicating information to a reader. This is largely because of a dearth of empirical investigations into graphs. Following a literature review, opinions from the relevant literature were synthesized into a set of principles of good graphing. The utility of three of these principles has been investigated in experiments reported in this dissertation. Specifically, the research described in this study was designed to determine the effects of (1) framing a graph, (2) tick placement, and (3) extraneous data placement on the estimation error and estimation speed with which a graph communicates information to a reader. A series of computer administered and scored tests were developed.

These tests were administered to 255 college students. Results of these tests indicate that if accuracy and speed of estimation of graphical displays is valued, then graphs should be framed, created with ticks on all four sides of the graph frame, and extraneous material should be kept outside the data region. Furthermore, when speed of estimation is valued, bar charts should be used in preference to line charts or scatterplots. Results showed estimation time was fastest when data was encoded within a bar chart rather than a line chart or a scatterplot, and slowest when data was encoded within a line chart rather than a bar chart or a scatterplot. Subjects indicated a preference for the data region to be framed, for ticks to be placed on all sides of the graph frame, and for extraneous information to be placed outside the data region. Subjects also reported a preference for bar charts rather than line charts or scatterplots.

Implications of this study are applicable to all facets of our society which use graphs, similar to those used in this series of experiments, to communicate information. A survey of graphs published in popular media, general science, and APA publications found most of current graphing practice to be counter to the findings of this study.



Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 56-03, Section: B, page: 1726.

Director: Ronald K. Hambleton.

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1995.

Reproduction Microfiche. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International. 
Subjects Psychology, Experimental.  |  Psychology, Psychometrics.
Other authors/contributors University of Massachusetts Amherst


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