Adapted from: De Rycker, Teun. “Analyzing Tables, Graphs, and Charts: A Four-Step Approach.Business Communication Quarterly, Volume 64, Number 4, December 2001, pp. 72 – 82.
For this assignment, you will choose a graph or chart from the for more thorough analysis from
one of the articles at the Pew Research Center on Wealth (2010 – present):
A completed assignment will include:
1. The graph or chart you analyzed, copied into the assignment. (Do not just refer to a
page number – include the actual graphic.) Give the title of the article it was taken from,
and the URL. Also include a few sentences of rationale: Why did you choose this chart to
2. A complete list of short answers for section one – these are your notes.
3. A write up of 800 – 1000 words that offers generalization, explanation, and
exploration. (See below)
Section one: Orientation
1. In 2 – 3 sentences, what is the main idea of the article (Include the title and URL here) .
2. In the graph or chart you chose, what type of data presentation has been chosen—and
why What are some of its possibilities and limitations compared with alternative
3. Does the data set contain a time scale How is time measured Why is this time scale
relevant What would a different time scale (i.e. weeks instead of months, or decades
instead of years) tell you
4. Does the table, graph, or chart have a title If it does not, can you think of one If it
does, can you think of a better one
5. What is the source of information What do you know about the secondary source (e.g.,
the journal or think tank where you got the graphic from) and the primary source
(where the graphic got its data from, e.g., the OECD)
6. Are there any labels, headings, or legends in the data visualization What do the
graphical entities (data points, lines, surfaces, and the like), graphical attributes (colors,
size, and the like), and numerical data represent
7. What units of measurement are used Make sure that you know which numbers are
percentages, coefficients, or indices.
8. What do the labels and other pieces of textual information used in your table, graph, or
chart mean If you are not sure, look up their definitions.
Generalization: In this section, you will describe the data as accurately as possible, through
patterns, trends, and comparisons. Imagine that you are describing this chart to an interested
friend or relative: they will need a little bit of context so they know why this data is important,
and a general explanation of what this graphic demonstrates. If you are stuck, consider the
starting and ending points of the time period cover (and why the researcher chose these), the
highest and lowest data points, and the largest and smallest changes, especially those changes
that seem extreme or abrupt.
Explanation: What are some of the causes for things to happen the way they did on this graph.
For this, you may have to do a little research (though you probably won’t have to go to the
library – unless you want to!) What are the authors’ claims in the text around the graphic, and
what have they left out
Exploration: Here you can offer your own opinion. Consider the following:
– Offer evaluation
– Discuss possible implications
– Bring in other facts and figures
– Tell us what was surprising or interesting here
– Examine the way the data affect you as a human being
These three sections – Generalization, Explanation, and Exploration – should not be separate.
Rather, they should flow together as one essay.
Include your name/date/course at the top. Give a word count (of just the essay) at the end.
Notes (Did you follow and complete the assignment ): 30
Organization (Are all three sections present ): 30
Mechanics – 10