Line Graphs are used to show trends over a period of time and can usually represent more precise data points than bar graphs. They contain a vertical y-axis, which displays some kind of measured quantity such as income or revenue, and the horizontal x-axis which is divided into time increments. Consecutive points are connected by straight lines, and the x- and y-axis are both labeled.
Be sure always to start the y-axis at zero; otherwise the shapes of the lines may give a false impression. It is also important to realize
that line graphs are not very helpful to readers who need to gather exact figures because they only give a general picture of the trend which took place.
Simple line graphs use only one line to plot according to time intervals on the horizontal axis and other values on the vertical axis. On the other hand, multiple-line graphs may use as many as three separate lines to show different relationships to the values that are represented by the horizontal axis. However, each line should use different shapes (circle, square, triangle) and/or colors in order for the viewer to be able to distinguish between the three lines. More than three lines should not be used in one plane unless there is minimal overlapping. The example above shows a multiple line graph.
Copyright 2003 by the Student Success Center and the University of Houston-Victoria.
Created 2003 by Candice Chovanec Melzow.
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