Posted by: Emily Priebe | May 22, 2014

Visualizing Qualitative Data

Visual displays provide a multidimensional space to organize data and show connections between different pieces of relevant data. (Verdinelli & Scagnoli 2013)

Creating visual representations is intrinsic to building theories and creating textual meaning. (Clarke, 2005)

While Joel and I will cover this topic in more detail during our presentation tonight, I wanted to briefly touch on it on our course blog. Many of the tools created for visually representing data are created for quantitative data sets (bar graphs, pie charts, etc.). But how do you visually represent qualitative data? What format does the data take in visual form? Is it even important to have “word” data represented in a different form? I would argue, yes. As communicators and writers, it can be easy to get wrapped up in describing our data, but there are many rich opportunities available to enhance our qualitative findings. By visually representing qualitative data, there is a larger opportunity to make connections, visualize relationships, and build theories.

An examination of qualitative data visualizations by Verdinelli and Scagnoli (2013) outlined the following best practices:

  1. A visual display should be as uncomplicated as possible.
  2. There should be the right balance of important information and minimum detail.
  3. Off-topic content or information should be avoided because irrelevant data creates visual noise.

Above all “a visual display should eliminate any barrier to the goal of presenting information in a clear and accessible way but yet seek to be engaging and appealing.”

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