Using numbers in a spreadsheet to express facts is a critical component to convey information. While it is great to show raw numbers to express data, there are many user-friendly ways to express these numbers. Graphs are also a great way to showcase the story that the numbers are telling you in a visual, readable, and credible manner. Most importantly, expressing your findings in this way allows for ease of understanding of what your data is telling you in order to convey meaningful information to the world.
The first step to telling the story that the numbers in a spreadsheet are trying to tell. Once data is gathered, organize your data in a tabular format that includes named columns and labeled rows. Take particular notice of whether the data in each column comprises numbers, letters, or both.
View raw numbers in data
After identifying which columns consists of pure numbers (with no letters) so if you notice any trends with the numbers. Here are some trends to look out for:
- As you go from row to row, do you see an increase in numbers?
- Do the numbers appear to be mostly even or odd?
- Are there any numbers that look like they are too large or too small compared to the rest of the data (these numbers are called outliers)?
Convert your numbers to graphs
The easiest way to view your numbers is by converting them to graphs. There are many different types of graphs including bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, and histograms. Here are the steps to create a graph
- Identify what your dimensions are and what your measures are. Here are the definitions of both.
- A dimension is usually a non-number column that can be interpreted by categories (I.e., Color, month, people, etc.). Sometimes a dimension can be a number, for example, Year, date, etc.
- A measure is a number that is related to the dimension in question. For example, Sales, Units sold, etc.
- Decide what type of graph you would like to create. Each type of graph requires a different number of independent and dependent variables. Here are the specifics required for the most common types of graphs:
- Bar graph: [at least] 1 dimension and 1 measure.
- Line graph: dimension is always time (Year, month, day, hour, etc.), and [at least] 1 measure.
- Pie chart: 1 dimension, and 1 measure.
- Histogram: 1 measure and dimension is always number of occurrences.
- Once you have a visual representation of the numbers through a graph, interpret what story the data is telling. Convey this story by sharing the graph in a paper, or a presentation.