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Using Visual Aids: Graphs


Graphs are most helpful for showing trends in data. They generally feature data arranged along an x-axis and a y-axis.


The x-axis displays the independent variable horizontally, and the y-axis displays the dependent variable vertically. When setting up your graph, be sure to label both axes and to number them at regular intervals.


A graph will also need a title that explains its subject. Usually the title is only a few words long and is centered over the graph. Also, remember that if you are using special colors, shading or line styles within your graph, you will need a key that tells reader what these various colors, shadings and line styles represent.


Although the information above is quite general and applies to most types of graphs, it is imperative that you use the appropriate type of graph for the data that you wish to represent; therefore, we will focus on the four most common types of graphs: the line graph, the bar graph, the pie graph and the pictograph.

Other resources on using visual aids are suggested here.


Copyright 2003 by the Student Success Center and the University of Houston-Victoria.
Created 2003 by Candice Chovanec Melzow.