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Advantages and disadvantages of different types of graphs

1 April 2011

There is more data available to organizations than ever before in history. We are flooded with data,In order to present it, we may use text, tables or graphs. The underlying consideration of any who are making a choice is to ensure that readers find it easy to understand, in a way that would catch the reader’s eye, hold his interest and enhance his understanding. Hereby we elaborate on graphs.


Graphs are visual representations of data. The major types of graphs are as follows (will be described each of them in detail after): Column/Bar; Line; Pie; Scatter; Radar; Bubble Stock.To help our readers choose the best graph to illustrate any dataset, we’ve compiled a list of types of graphs and the industries that they can serve. Each type of graph has its advantages and disadvantages, and is more popular in several sectors:


Business and Media


Common type of Graphs: Column bar Graph:

Description: Column graphs typically have two axis, an x-axis (horizontal) and y-axis (vertical). The x-axis is usually labeled with the categories being compared. The y-axis is generally labeled with the frequency, or value of each category.

Uses: Bar graphs are used to highlight separate values, especially the differences between these values. They are extremely useful for comparing values in different categories and can be used to describe the relationship of several variables at once.

Advantages: summarize a large dataset in visual form; easily compare two or three data sets; better clarify trends than do tables; estimate key values at a glance.

Disadvantages: require additional written or verbal explanation; can be easily manipulated to give false impressions.

Variations: 3-D Bar Graphs; 3-Axis Bar Graphs; Stacked Bar Graphs ; Line/Dot Bar Graphs; Histograms; Pictograms.

Type of Graphs: Line Graph

Description: One of the most popular types of graphs, line graphs has two axes.The horizontal (x-axis) is for the independent variable, and the vertical axis (y-axis) is for the dependent variable. Points on the graph are connected by lines, hence the name.

Uses: Line graphs are typically used to show how a value changes over time,though the independent variable can really be anything. Since they are most commonly used to visually represent trends over time, they are sometimes referred to as time-series charts.

Advantages: show trends and relationships between data better than other graphs; compare trends in different groups of a variable; clearly show error values in the data;Usually simple to read and understand

Disadvantages: multiple lines on the graph, especially unrelated can be confusing; difficult to make out exact values for data

Variations: Area Line Graph

Type of Graphs: Pie Graph

Description: Pie graphs, in their simplest form, are circles subdivided into different colored areas.

Uses: Pie charts are typically used to summarize categorical data, or mostly percentile value.

Advantages: provides an excellent visual concept of a whole; clear comparison of different components, highlight information by visual separation of a segment, easy to label, lots of space.

Disadvantages: hard to compare two data sets; the total represented by the chart is unknown; difficult to understand without labels (especially with similarly sized segments)

Variations: Donut Graph (used a lot in advertisement)

Type of Graphs: Radar Chart (Spider Chart)

Description: A radar graph is composed of a set of axis radiating from the center. Each axis represents a different property or value. Each plot on the radar graph consists of a point on each of the axis, which are usually connected. Each plot is assigned with different color. If the area enclosed by the lines is colored in, the shading is usually semi-transparent.

Uses: A Radar charts are very useful when comparing performance/measurement results from different sources. Obviously, the greater the area covered by the plot, the greater the overall value. Through comparison and analysis, people can figure out their current situation: improving or falling behind.

Advantages: primary way of displaying more than two or three values at once; excellent way to get a "feel" for data;

Disadvantages: cannot compare more than two or three different plots at once; without coloring, can be difficult to tell which points belong to who; too many axis makes it difficult to read less intuitive than other graph types


Type of Graphs: Scatter Plots

Description: Scatter plots are generally composed of two axes. Both the x-axis and y-axis represent a range of values. Where the axis intersects is always (or should be), (0, 0). Data points are plotted according to their x/y-values, but they are not joined.

Uses: Scatter plots illustrate paired data, that is, information regarding two related variables. It is particularly useful when one of the variables (represented by the y-axis) is dependent on the other (represented by the x-axis). The resulting pattern (after all the

points have been plotted) will indicate the strength of the correlation between two variables. They are used primarily in science to establish relationships.

Advantages: Clearly indicates data correlation (illustrates positive, negative, strong, weak relationships); method of illustration non-linear patterns; shows spread of data, outliers; clearly demonstrate atypical relationships; used for data extrapolation and interpolation

Disadvantages: impossible to label data points, hard to find out exact values; error bars and too many data points can quickly make graph unreadable; cannot show relationship between more than two variables at once

Type of Graphs: Stock Graphs

Description: Stock graphs are usually a hybrid of various graph types. However, one type of graph is specific to stocks. Each bar contains two extra dashes, one on the left and on right. Stock graphs are always seen on a two axis system and are always plotted against time (time is on the x-axis) and usually a dollar value is used for the y-axis.

Uses: The ticks to the left and right serve to indicate the starting and ending value of the time interval taken up by the bar. The actual endpoints of the bar are the high and low values reached during that time period. These special bar graphs are usually combined with conventional bar graphs or line graphs which show an average value for each time interval. Stock graphs are used almost exclusively to visualize financial data.

Advantages: excellent at displaying financial dataDisadvantages: very specific use; too many types of graphs combined together can make it very difficult to read.

 Type of Graphs: Bubble Graph

Description: Bubble charts useful for comparing the relationships between data objects in 3 numeric-data dimensions: the x-axis data, the y-axis data, and data represented by the bubble size. Essentially, bubble charts are like XY scatter graphs except that each point on the scatter graph has an additional data value associated with it that is represented by the size of a circle or “bubble” centered around the XY point.

Uses: Bubble charts are often used in business to visualize the relationships between alternatives investment in dimensions such as cost, value, and risk.

Advantages: display three variables without using 3D graphs; visual size makes it very easy to make relative comparisons; Conveys same information as a line graph

Disadvantages: due to circle sizes, can be difficult to ascertain actual values; difficult to read and understand; cannot be used to display a lot of data.

Of course, our list is far from all inclusive. Fact is, the ways in which most graphs can be used are only limited by one’s own imagination. 

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