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Research Data Literacy 101

This guide will walk you through some of the tools, resources, and best practices for working & visualizing information, including data. Guide 1 of a 3-part series.

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization “...helps the human eye perceive huge amounts of data in an understandable way. It enables researchers to represent, draft, and display data visually in a way that allows humans to more efficiently identify, visualize, and remember it. " (Orkodashvili, 2014)

Building an information visualization can aid you in your research process in many ways, but predominately:

  • Early in the research process- information visualization can help you explore and understand patterns in your data in a non-traditional way, giving you a different perspective.
  • Later in the research process- visualization can help you communicate important aspects of your data in an (hopefully) easy-to-understand fashion.

Orkodashvili, Mariam, PhD, Salem Press Encyclopedia, January, 2014.

Let's Get Started

Choosing your visualization method is important. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who is my audience, are they familiar with this information?
  2. What am I trying to convey? What am I showing them? What is my audience supposed to understand?
  3. How much time or space do I have? Does that matter?

Here is a Cheat Sheet for helping you choose a graphic that best suits your goal: Mike Parkinson's Graphic Cheat Sheet.

There are six types of visualization strategies and each of these six types can be further described with examples on this Periodic Table of Visualization Methods.

  • Data visualization - visual representations of quantitative data in a schematic form
  • Information visualization - interactive, visual representations of data to amplify understanding. Data is transformed into an interactive image
  • Concept visualization - methods to elaborate mostly qualitative concepts, ideas, plans and analysis
  • Strategy visualization - systematic use of complementary visual representations of the analysis, conclusion, and implementation of strategies
  • Metaphor visualization - position information graphically to organize and structure information and convey insight about the information
  • Compound visualization - complementary use of different graphic representation formats in one scheme

Data is Beautiful -TED Talk

David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut — and it may just change the way we see the world.