Skip to Main Content

Data Visualization: Common Types of Data Visualizations

Your guide to great data visualizations!

Line Charts

Commonly used for: demonstrating phenomena over time or into the future, such as by visualizing time series data or plotting a linear regression

Similar to:

  • Scatter plots

Examples:

Citation: Roser, M. (2021). Smoking: How large of a global problem is it? And how can we make progress against it?. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/smoking-big-problem-in-brief

More information:

Tree Maps

Commonly used for: displaying hierarchical, nested information -- usually at a high level of granularity that combines color, shape, text, and numbers

Examples:

Tree map of United States exports - stacked tree map squares in blue, red, pink, yellow, etc.

Citation: Observatory of Economic Complexity. (2020). What does United States export? https://oec.world/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/usa/all/show/2020/

More information:

Bar Charts

Commonly used for: categorizing related information together by size, which is represented by the length or height of the bar; these types of charts can be grouped or stacked to represent multiple types of information at once

Examples:

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is jdapm-22-217-g005.jpg

Citation: Pol, R., Ruggiero, T., Bezzi, M., Camisassa, D., & Carossa, S. (2022). Programmed-release intraosseus anesthesia as an alternative to lower alveolar nerve block in lower third molar extraction: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Dental Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, 22(3), 217-226. https://doi.org/10.17245/jdapm.2022.22.3.217

More information:

Histograms

Commonly used for: demonstrating the distribution of continuous data; not to be confused with a bar chart, though histograms often look like bar charts

Examples:

Citation: Waskom, M. L., (2021). seaborn: statistical data visualization. Journal of Open Source Software, 6(60), 3021, https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.03021, https://seaborn.pydata.org/examples/histogram_stacked.html

More information:

Box Plots

Commonly used for: comparing summary statistics across groups; useful for viewing minimums, maximums, quartiles, outliers, etc. across variables in a dataset

Similar to:

  • Violin plots

Examples:

Box plot visualization on smokers in purple and green

Citation: Waskom, M. L., (2021). seaborn: statistical data visualization. Journal of Open Source Software, 6(60), 3021, https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.03021, https://seaborn.pydata.org/examples/grouped_boxplot.html

More information:

Pie Charts

Commonly used for: showing percentages of a whole, such as by visualizing answer percentages from total respondents to a question in a survey; many data visualization experts recommend using caution when selecting pie charts as your visualization method, as they can be difficult to quickly interpret

Similar to:

  • Donut charts
  • Waffle charts

Examples:

pie chart with accessible equivalent as list below

Citation: Borchardt, R., Bruce, S., Click, A., & Brief, I. (2022). Are we walking the talk? A snapshot of how academic LIS journals are (or aren’t) enacting disciplinary values. the Library with the Lead Pipe.

More information:

Heat Maps

Commonly used for: representing magnitude via color and dimensionality; clustering data by variation in space

Examples:

Citation: Bostroem, A., Bekolay, T., &  Staneva, V. (eds). (2016). Software Carpentry: Programming with Python, Version 2016.06. https://github.com/swcarpentry/python-novice-inflammation, https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.57492.

More information:

More Visualization Examples

Many visualization libraries for programming languages have visualization galleries, including:

Many websites focus on informative and aesthetically pleasing visualizations; two favorites include:

Consider the following excellent data visualization guides from other academic communities: