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6CN010 - Dissertation

Data Presentation
& Writing Skills

Adapted from D.E. Searle & S.Suresh

Presenting data

Raw data
Normally unorganised and difficult to interpret
Summaries of the raw data help:
Reinforce the message
Make it easier to understand
Choosing and using the best method of presentation is important
for effective communication

Graphical aids

Charts and illustrations for presenting data

Use to reduce number of words needed in explanation
Help to reinforce the meaning of the words
Make presentation of data more effective and efficient
Should help prevent misunderstandings

Graphic aids ~ consider:

Is a visual aid needed?

Which is the best to use?
How complex or simple should it be?
How will it be introduced and explained?

Graphic aids ~ Advantages

Gains attention if done well

Provides maximum information as quickly as possible
Speeds comprehension
Relieves monotony of solid text
Conveys impression of overall trends and tendencies
Helps reader pick out specific figures and see relationships
Highlights differences

Presentation of statistical data


Simplest form of presenting data as a visual aid

Data is presented in rows and columns
Unnecessary data can be discarded
Comparisons can be made relatively easily

~ advantages

Display large amounts of data in small space

Comparisons and contrasts easily seen
Label rows and columns, clearly and concisely
Include/exclude lines/bold/highlights etc

D.E. Searle & S.Suresh


D.E. Searle & S.Suresh

Presenting Tables (1)

1. Numbering Tables

Every table must be numbered.

Table 1, Table 2, etc.

Do not use Table I, Table A, etc.

2. Table Titles

Every table must have a title.

A good title presents the name of the major variable or

variables and the type of analysis.


Table 1: Frequency of attendance in class

Presenting Tables (2)

3. Headings within the table

Headings tell the reader what variables are being

presented and establish the organisation of the





4. Table Body

The table body contains the data and/or numbers

Round numbers to improve readability (whole/one DP/two DP)

Presenting Tables (3)

5. Table Notes
General :

Provide information about the table as a whole,

including the meaning of symbols or abbreviations.


Refer to the content of a particular cell.


Indicate the outcome of significance tests.

Note. From National Opinion Research Centre General Social Survey, 1988.
a. These cases did not provide valid answers.* p < .05

Continuous or Discrete data?

Continuous - every point on a line graph is valid e.g. speed,
acceleration, population growth, resource usage, sales, plotted
against time; or conversion graphs e.g. oC to oF, or $ to .



Discrete - i.e. not directly related to other items of information

being plotted: it occurs in distinct steps e.g. children per family,
population in one country compared with another at the same
time. (chart)

Continuous data GRAPHS (1)

Simple graph
Line to show increases and
Slope of line shows intensity
of activity and trends over

Multiple graph
Shows trends of more
than one thing
Use of solid, dotted and
broken lines
Use of colour

Continuous data (2)

Divided/compound graph
Values of total and its parts
Alternate sections shaded or
Patterns behind large volumes
of figures
Information divided into
Vertical scale = frequency
Columns do not need same

Scatter graph (scattergram)

Single dot plotted against
scales on 2 axes
May be independent
Not joined by a line
scatter gives the message
Use in statistical correlations

Points to remember:
Include and emphasise
a zero on vertical scale
Carefully choose and
indicate scales
Annotate the axes

Graph constructiongood practice (1)

Label each axis with a full description of the variable it represents
including units (if appropriate).
Do not crowd the axis with scale values (approximately 4-6 major
Do not plot data points on the axes themselves.
Choose an appropriate resolution for the graph. If the data is
remote from the origin then do not include the origin.
Title should be meaningful and brief (but full)

Graph constructiongood practice (2)

Legend should be informative and comprehensive

Differentiate lines primarily by style and/or thickness (then by

colour if necessary)

Emphasis the zero line by making it heavier than any other


Carefully choose and clearly indicate the scales; the scale

chosen can distort the figures. (see next slide)

Annotate the axes

Graph constructiongood practice (5)

Large vertical scale

Small vertical scale

Discrete and non-continuous data (1)

Bar charts
Quick comparisons
Can predict trends

Multiple bar charts

Compare any different
Bars set in group

Divided (component) bar chart

Bars divided into parts to
compare constituents as well
as the total value
Each part shaded/coloured
and key provided

Population pyramid
Both age and sex
structure of population
Building up the age
Male vs. female
Grouped by ages e.g. 1,
5, 10 years
Compare shape of two

Discrete and non-continuous data (1)

Floating bar charts
Bars float above or
below a zero line
A balance line can also
be plotted
Points for bar charts:
Always include zero
Beware false zeros
Bars not short and
wide, nor long and
Separate bars by spaces

pie-chart represented
as a picture
Segments may be out of

Pie charts
One of the most
Easy to interpret
Easy to produce
Communicates ~ clearly
and simply

Discrete and non-continuous data (1)

Pictorial chart
Adaptation of bar chart
Uses symbols to
represent the subject
Symbols should be
uniform in size and
For non-complex data

Statistical maps
Shows quantitative
Includes dot or pin maps

Presentation of Numbers (1)

Expressing Numbers as Figures
General Rule:
Use figures to express numbers 10 and above, and words to
express numbers below 10.
A 22 mm line

a twenty-two millimetre line

Three out of five groups

3 out of 5 groups

Two $2 bills

2 $2.00 bills, 2 2 dollar bills

Numbers that represent statistics, percentages, fractions,
decimal numbers, ratios, percentiles and quartiles are
represented as figures. A mean of 3.54 , Table 1

Presentation of Numbers (2)

Expressing Numbers as Figures
General Rule:
Use words to express numbers below 10 that do not represent
precise measurements and that are not grouped for comparison
with numbers 10 and above.
About seven or eight
One-way ANOVA

about 7 or 8
1-way ANOVA

Any number that begins a sentence, title, or heading should be
expressed in words.
Five studies support .., Twenty-six percent of ..

Presentation of Numbers (3)

Combining Figures and Words to Express Numbers
General Rule:
Use a combination of figures and words to express rounded large
numbers and back-to-back modifiers.
About 3 thousand
A net loss of $1 billion

about three thousand
a net loss of one-billion dollars

Additional checklists - general

Is it numbered?
Does it have a title?
Is it referred to in the text?
Is it explained/discussed in the text?
Is it well presented and clear?
Is all the information necessary?
Are headings/scales/labels etc included?

Additional checklists - table

Does each column have a clear title and the correct units?
Do all values have consistent and appropriate accuracy?
(i.e. No of decimal points)
Are all columns necessary?

Additional checklists graphs/charts

Are the parameters on the correct axes?

Are axes labelled correctly?

Are the axes and scales drawn so that:

- there is enough space for titles and labels
- the graph is not compressed on either axis?

Are different points and lines distinguishable? (not

everyone sees in colour!).

Only use 3D graphs if the Z axis is actually measuring

something (they can obscure data)

Additional checklists diagrams/photos

Does it show what is needed and give no more?

Are scale, labels and key given if needed?
Are photos of sufficient quality? (beware of images from web pages
they are usually low resolution i.e. 75 DPI, typically 300DPI

Writing Skills - good practice (1)

Write in the THIRD person not the first (i.e. dont use I),
this is generally not appropriate for technical /scientific
Avoid sarcasm, humour, irony, levity or satire.
Try not to use slang, vulgarisms or regionalisms.
Where possible attempt to write in short sentences,
approximately 20 words maximum (this should result in
a more concise and focused writing style)

Writing Skills - good practice (2)

Use the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple)
avoid padding
Avoid a patronising or pompous manner in your
Write in the past tense
Only use a direct quote when absolutely necessary.
Avoid clichs
Always explain acronyms the first time they are used.
(e.g. British Broadcasting Company (BBC))
Do not use contractions (i.e. use do not rather than

Dissertation presentation (1)

Word processed
Use Arial 11 for main text
Space the dissertation, do not crowd the pages. If there are large
numbers of tables and graphs, place them in the appendix
Ensure proper use of paragraphs. Large blocks of text are
difficult to read.
Place a double or single line gap between paragraphs.
Leave clear margins.
Do not mix fonts, a maximum of two is acceptable (for text and
for titles for graphs, tables & photographs)

Dissertation presentation (2)

Ensure all pages are numbered.

Do not include unnecessary graphics or pictures, which are not
referred to in the report.
Fully justify the text (i.e. equal margins on each side of the text)
Ensure images are of good quality, have a figure number and
Few tables, or if needed for explanation, could go into the body
of the main text.
Large data sets or a large number of graphs may be more
appropriate in the appendix of a report
Text in tables does not contribute to the word count

Editing & proof reading


Read through without stopping spelling/meaning/titles/format

Mark doubtful passages as you go
Make corrections once fully read through
Final checks. When you think you have finished




Final stage

Last minute alterations before printing allow for printing time

Hand in (get a receipt)

Novice writers find it difficult to start. With many reasons

for their failure to put pen to paper.
Even when finally seated, diversions appear:

make the coffee,

sharpen the pencil,

go to the bathroom,

check more literature,

Remember that you are never ready to write; writing is

something you must make a conscious decision to do and
then discipline yourself to follow it through.

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