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Data Visualization

This guide will walk you through what data visualization to use based on your research need and data type

Maps

Definition:

Maps are used to show a variable in relation to its geographic location. Multiple variables can be displayed on map, but the more variables that are added, the harder it is for the reader to understand the information. 

An example would be this map showing the US 2016 per capita energy usage (energy usage per person) by state. Notice how the map includes a legend to explain what the colors mean, how each state is ladled, and the source of the data is listed. Additionally, notice how the map has a title that explains what the map is showing. 

Steelberg, T. (2017). Data Presentation: Showcasing your data with charts and graphs. In K. Fontichiaro, J. A. Oehrli, & A. Lennex (Eds.), Creating Data Literate Students (pp. 165–192). Michigan Publishing.

Questions that can be answered by maps

Maps can answer the following questions:

  1. Where do certain variables occur?
  2. Are there any geographic patterns for a variable or between variables?
  3. Where is the variable most concentrated?
  4. Where is the variable the highest or lowest?
  5. How does one place compare with another?
Steelberg, T. (2017). Data Presentation: Showcasing your data with charts and graphs. In K. Fontichiaro, J. A. Oehrli, & A. Lennex (Eds.), Creating Data Literate Students (pp. 165–192). Michigan Publishing.

Tips for creating maps

Tips:

  1. Always include a legend with your map to explain the meaning of any colors and symbols used to convey data and to indicate distances or directions. 
  2. Emphasize the units used such as people, distance, temperature, etc.
  3. Use colors that stand out from each other by picking contrasting hues, or using a color scale of light to dark. Also, avoid using green vs. red or blue vs. yellow as individuals with color blindness may be unable to tell the difference. here is a link to a quick tool that can help you decide on an accessible color pallet. 
  4. Keep it simple by avoiding neon colors, tons of icons, decorations, or small pictures. 
  5. Always cite your source.
Smith, S. (2017). Deconstructing data vizualizations: What every teen should know. In K. Fontichiaro, J. A. Oehrli, & A. Lennex (Eds.), Creating Data Literate Students (pp. 193–214). Michigan Publishing

Steelberg, T. (2017). Data Presentation: Showcasing your data with charts and graphs. In K. Fontichiaro, J. A. Oehrli, & A. Lennex (Eds.), Creating Data Literate Students (pp. 165–192). Michigan Publishing.
 

Tools for creating maps

Examples of good maps