Tables and Graphs

It can be very confusing and frustrating to try to understand data when it is not organized in any logical way. Thankfully, there are tools and techniques that you can use to help you to make sense of it, visualize patterns and trends and interpret the information behind the numbers. In this article, we will show you how you can use tables and different types of graphs to help you achieve this.

Tables and Graphs Tables and Graphs

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Contents
Table of contents

    Let's start with the basics and define what we mean by data.

    Data comprise information and knowledge gathered about a specific topic or situation. Data are normally collected through a research and analysis process and presented in the form of numbers, facts, observations, measurements, statistics, and survey results, among others.

    What are Tables?

    In order to help you organize data so that you can analyze them more efficiently, you can use tables to represent it.

    Tables are representations of data organized into different categories by rows and columns.

    In tables, you can arrange data in increasing or decreasing order, which makes it easier and quicker for you to locate specific information. Each row and column represents a specific category, typically labeled at the top of each column and at the left-hand side of each row.

    Examples of Tables

    Here is an example of a table that contains data about the global revenue of the Unilever Group from 2010 to 2020, by product segment (in million euros):

    Revenue of the Unilever Group worldwide 2010-2020, by product segment:

    Year 20102011201220132014201520162017201820192020
    Personal care

    13,767

    15,471

    18,097

    18,056

    17,739

    20,074

    20,172

    20,697

    20,624

    21,868

    21,124

    Home care

    7,726

    8,206

    9,057

    8,946

    9,164

    10,159

    10,009

    10,574

    10,131

    10,825

    10,460

    Foods and refreshments

    22,769

    22,790

    24,170

    22,795

    21,533

    23,039

    22,532

    22,444

    20,227

    19,287

    19,140

    Source: statista.com

    If you are asked to answer the following questions:

    • In what year did the Unilever Group have the highest increase in revenue?
    • In what year there was the biggest drop in revenue?

    Then you can add a couple of rows to the previous table to give you the information that you need. One row will contain the total revenue per year, and the other one will include the change in revenue between the current year and the previous one.

    The values in the Total revenue row in the table below, are the result of adding the revenue for all product segments per year, and the values in the Revenue change are the result of subtracting the total revenue from the previous year from the current one. For example, the values corresponding to Total revenue and Revenue change for the year 2011 are calculated as follows:

    Total revenue in 2011=Personal care revenue+Home care revenue+Food and refreshments revenue =15,471+82,06+22,790 =46,467

    Revenue change in 2011=Total revenue in 2011-Total revenue in 2010 =46,467-44,262 =2,205

    Let's see the rest of the values in the table below.

    Year 2010 2011201220132014201520162017201820192020
    Total revenue44,26246,46751,32449,79748,43653,27252,71353,71550,98251,98050,724
    Revenue change2,2054,857-1,527-1,3614,836-5591,002-2,733998-1,256

    Notice that negative values in the revenue change refer to a decrease in revenue.

    Now we can answer the questions:

    1. In what year did the Unilever Group have the highest increase in revenue?

    The highest increase in revenue was seen in the year 2012. In comparison to 2011, the revenue in 2012 increased by 4,857 million euros. See the table cell highlighted in green.

    2. In what year there was the biggest drop in revenue?

    The biggest drop in revenue occurred in the year 2018. In comparison to the previous year, the revenue decreased by 2,733 million euros. See the cell highlighted in yellow.

    What are Graphs?

    Graphs are graphical representations that provide a more visual way to understand and analyze data, showing the relationship between two or more variables.

    Graphs help us analyze the behavior of variables, and can be used to make inferences about them and to facilitate the interpretation of data.

    Types of graphs

    The main types of graphs that you can use to analyze data are as follows:

    Bar graphs

    Bar graphs, also known as bar charts, display data using bars of the same width to represent different categories. How tall the bars are is defined by the data that they are associated with, and the scale chosen in each case.

    The steps to draw a bar graph from a set of values on a table are as follows:

    • Choose the scale, depending on the data range (minimum and maximum values), and decide what increments you will use to be able to display all the data;

    • Draw the axes and label them;

    • Draw a bar for each category. The length of each bar will depend on the values on the table;

    • Choose a title for your graph, related to the relationship between the variables that the bar graph is representing.

    Bar graphs can be vertical or horizontal.

    Going back to the previous example, here is the bar graph corresponding to Unilever's total revenue per year from 2010 to 2020:

    Graphs and Tables Bar graph example StudySmarterBar graph example - StudySmarter Originals

    Always make sure that the intervals in which the scale increments are consistent and that there are no gaps. Otherwise, the graphs could be misleading and lead to misinterpretation of the data.

    Read Misleading Graphs to learn more about this topic.

    Line graphs

    Line graphs are especially useful to represent change over time. This allows you to identify trends and patterns in the behavior of a variable.

    The steps to draw a line graph from a set set of values on a table are:

    • Choose the scale;

    • Draw the axes and intervals and label them;

    • Plot a point on the graph for each value on the table;

    • Connect each individual point with the one next to it using a straight line;

    • Choose a title for your line graph.

    Let's now represent the same data used in the previous example, but using a line graph.

    Graphs and Tables Bar Line graph example StudySmarterLine graph example - StudySmarter Originals

    As you can see, it is easier to identify trends with a line graph. Looking at the line graph above, let's answer the following questions:

    a) In what years did the revenue decrease?

    The years where the revenue decreased were 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. You can identify that these years had a revenue decrease because the line graph has a negative slope (points down) on these particular points.

    b) In what period did the revenue decrease two years in a row?

    The period where the revenue decreased in two consecutive years was 2013 and 2014. As you can see on the line graph, the line has a negative slope in both of these years.

    Pie graphs

    Pie graphs, also known as circle graphs or pie charts, are graphical representations that help to visualize how different categories relate to each other and to the whole represented by the circle.

    The steps to draw a pie graph from data contained in a table are:

    • Work out the total amount of observations by adding together all of the values per category in the table provided;

    • Do the following calculation per category in the table to work out the degree measure of each sector in the pie graph:

    Category degree measure=Category totalTotal observations·360°;

    • Draw a circle, and use a protractor to draw the angle corresponding to each sector;

    • Label each sector;

    • Choose a title for your pie graph.

    Let's see this more clearly with an example.

    The following table contains the most popular global mobile messenger apps for October 2021, based on monthly active users (in millions). Draw a pie graph to represent the data.

    Mobile messenger appMonthly active users (millions)

    WhatsApp

    2000

    Facebook Messenger

    1300

    Weixin / WeChat

    1251

    QQ

    591

    Telegram

    550

    Snapchat

    538

    Source: Statista.com

    Total number of observations (users) = 2000+1300+1251+591+550+538=6320

    As an example of the calculations that you need to do to work out the degree measure for each category, let's calculate the one corresponding to WhatsApp:

    Category degree measure (WhatsApp)=20006320·360°=113.92°

    After calculating the degree measure for each category, you can draw the pie graph using a protractor to measure the different angles. After that, you can label each sector and choose a title for your pie graph.

    Graphs and Tables Pie graph example StudySmarterPie graph example - StudySmarter Originals

    Importance of Tables and Graphs

    Tables and graphs provide a visual representation of a collection of data presented in an organized way to facilitate interpretation, analysis, and the identification of patterns and trends. Tables and graphs are important resources used in many scenarios, for example:

    • To facilitate the decision-making process;

    • To present research findings;

    • To be used as information to back up a particular argument;

    • To present the annual results in the sales performance of a company;

    • To analyze the effectiveness of a particular decision;

    • To represent the market share of a company in a specific sector, etc.

    Challenges of Tables and Graphs

    When we discussed bar graphs, we mentioned that graphs could be misleading and lead to misinterpretation of the data. We identified that this can happen when there are gaps in the intervals used in the scale. Apart from this, there are other common mistakes that can be made when representing data, especially in graphs, which you need to keep in mind. Let's mention a few below.

    • Not starting the scale at zero;

    • Not including or not labeling the axes;

    • Presenting incomplete data;

    • Not plotting the points correctly;

    • Misinterpreting the information given by the data;

    • In pie graphs, including percentages that do not add up to 100%, etc.

    Tables and Graphs - Key takeaways

    • Data comprise information and knowledge gathered about a specific topic or situation.
    • Tables are representations of data organized into different categories by rows and columns.
    • Graphs are graphical representations that provide a more visual way to understand and analyze data, showing the relationship between two or more variables.
    • Graphs could be misleading if the intervals in which the scale increments are not consistent and if there are gaps in the data.
    • The main types of graphs that you can use to analyze data are bar, line, and pie graphs.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Tables and Graphs

    What is the meaning of tables and graphs?

    Tables and graphs provide a visual representation of a collection of data presented in an organized way to facilitate interpretation, analysis, and the identification of patterns and trends.

    What are the key features of tables and graphs?

    The key features of tables include:

    - Data are organized in rows and columns in increasing or decreasing order.

    - Each row and column represents a specific category, typically labeled at the top of each column and at the left-hand side of each row. 


    The key features of graphs include:

    - They are visual representations of data that show the relationship between two or more variables.

    - The main types of graphs that you can find are: bar graphs, line graphs and pie graphs.

    - Bar and line graphs are represented using an x and a y-axis. 

    - Pie graphs are graphical representations that help to visualize how different categories relate to each other and to the whole represented by the circle.

    What is the difference between tables, charts and graphs?

    Tables and graphs are different in the way that they display data. Tables help you to organize and keep track of data in rows and columns. In tables, data is presented in increasing or decreasing order, making it easier to locate specific information when required. Graphs or charts provide a more visual way to represent the behavior of considerably large amounts of data, which helps you to identify trends and patterns that otherwise would be difficult to spot.

    What are examples of tables and graphs?

    An example of a table is a table containing data about the number of users of the most popular social media apps from 2010 to 2022. 


    An example of a graph is a line graph representing the sales of a particular product over the past 10 years.

    How are tables and graphs used to present data?

    Tables organize data in rows and columns in increasing or decreasing order, making it easier to locate specific information when required. Graphs are a more visual way to represent the behavior of considerably large amounts of data, helping to identify trends and patterns.

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