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Tables are designed to present easily scan able raw data, according to Word writer Ron Owens in a Word blog post about table styles. Charts also provide a visual picture of a large quantity of data, but they have the added benefit of illustrating relationships between pieces of data.
If you have presented data in a table but you find you want to illustrate a conclusion about the data, or if a conclusion about the data is buried in wordy paragraphs in your research paper, you might consider using a chart to illustrate trends. With so many chart options, which chart type do you choose?
The Chart tool, available from the Word Insert tab in the Illustrations group, makes inserting a chart in a research paper fairly straight forward. Choose a chart type, add the data to the worksheet, and you're done.
If you're new to using charts though, one look at the multitude of chart types available from the Insert Chart dialog box could send you packing.
Depending on the data and your conclusions, any one of the available chart types could be appropriate, but the four most commonly used chart types are conveniently arranged at the top of the chart list: Column, Line, Pie, and Bar.
Each chart type is used for a specific purpose, and the choice is not as hard as you think.
Column charts, sometimes called Histograms, show data arranged in adjacent rectangles or sometimes cones. These charts are useful for showing data changes over a period of time or for illustrating comparisons among items. For example, a column chart might show dollars earned (vertical axis) over time (horizontal axis).
Line charts display information as a series of data points connected by straight lines. Line charts are ideal for presenting trends in data over intervals of time. For example, you might plot a series of observations about number of bees (vertical axis) observed over time (hortizontal axis).
Pie charts are best used to show parts of a whole, such as percentage values as a slice of the pie. A common use of pie charts is to represent the percentage of budget allotted to specific projects.
Bar charts, which can be confused with column charts, illustrate comparisons among individual items. The bars can be plotted vertically or horizontally. An example of a bar chart might be country (vertical axis) and annual GDP in dollars (horizontal axis).
You can find step-by-step instructions to insert a chart in a document in Quick Start: Add a chart to your document. To learn more about these four basic chart options and the other chart types, try Available chart types. Do you have specific questions about charts and charting? Let us know.
--Leslie H. Cole
Thanks for the information about the chart options in Word as well as their functions. I appreciate you pointing out that the more commonly used charts are listed first. Come to think of it, I hardly use the bottom charts. This is indeed helpful to newbies who are just getting started with Word.
Have a good one!
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