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Cain Project Support Materials for COMP 482 - Fall 2007

Common Errors with Graphs in this Assignment:

General tips on displaying data

All graphics, from simple tables to complex graphs, function best when they are organized around the structure of the data and the comparison or analysis that you plan to make. While your figure or table needs to be able to stand alone (many readers skim the figures in a document to determine whether the rest of the document is worth reading), it also needs to be explained and contextualized in the text. It’s in this discussion that you assign meaning to the results, answering the question: “Why should we care?”

A few rules apply to all graphics used in a document:

  • Number each graphic and include an informative caption that tells readers what they are looking at. Tables are captioned above the table (Table 1. Xxxx.); figures are captioned below the figure (Figure 5. Xxxxx.).
  • Identify graphics correctly. Tables are “tables.” Everything else (graph, photo, etc.) is a “figure.”
  • Refer to graphics in the text, either inline (Table 2 shows…) or with a parenthetical [When using Prim-Jarnik’s algorithm with our adjacency list-based graph, the running time grows rapidly with the number of edges (Figure 3).]
  • Think logically about labels and data display. Most readers can’t decipher more than four symbols on a graph. Use logical labels or mnemonic abbreviations to aid in comprehension.
  • Bigger is better. Be sure that your captions, data points, labels, etc., are readable.
  • Place graphics close to the text discussing them for easy reference.
  • To avoid unintended artifacts, design graphics for black-and-white printers and photocopiers, even if you will ultimately produce the graphic in color.

Visit Common Problems in Interpreting and Graphing Data and the COMP 482 Figure Bestiary for examples.

Course Instructor: Dr. John Greiner
Email: greiner@cs.rice.edu
Cain Project Contact: Deborah Ausman
Email: auswoman@rice.edu



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