What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Graph?

By Staff WriterLast Updated May 27, 2020 7:37:11 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Aidan Leitch/Creative Commons

Graphs and charts are visual aids that allow you to convey data and statistics to your audience during a presentation. Different types of graphs can be used, depending on the information you are conveying. While each features advantages and disadvantages, some common benefits exist. Graphs make the data more convincing and provide a way to engage your audience during your presentation. Let's explore some of the main graphs that are in use.

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Pie Chart or Circle Graph

A pie chart is a graph that features a circle cut into different sectors or "pie slices." For this reason, they are also called circle graphs. Each sector stands for a relative size of value for a whole, with proportionate sizing for the quantity it represents.

Advantages:

  • Graph can be created proportionally to the quantity it needs to represent
  • Displays multiple classes of data in one chart
  • Puts large sums of data into visual form for easy understanding
  • More visually appealing than other graphs
  • Offers easy calculations of data accuracy
  • Requires little explanation
  • Understood easily by different departments within a business and for media purposes

Disadvantages:

  • Doesn't reveal exact values
  • Multiple graphs are needed for time-lapse data
  • Key assumptions, causes, effect, and patterns are not revealed
  • Manipulated easily, causing false impressions or interpretations 

Bar Graph & Pareto Graph

Similar to a pie chart, a bar graph uses rectangles or narrow columns to show data comparisons. The height of the bar graph that is shaded in represents different amounts. The first known use of bar graphs was in 1917. A Pareto graph or chart is a type of bar graph that also features a line graph.

Advantages:

  • Each data category is displayed in a frequency distribution pattern
  • Allows for visualization of relative numbers or proportions of multiple categories
  • Easy summarization of large sets of data
  • Clearer understanding of trends over table charts
  • Offers estimated values of key factors at a glance
  • Gives the ability to check the accuracy of calculations visually
  • Easy for multiple levels within a company or audience to understand the information presented

Disadvantages:

  • Additional explanation is required
  • Can be manipulated to show false results
  • Unable to show key assumptions, causes, effects, or patterns present

Histogram

First created by Karl Pearson, a histogram is a plot or chart that allows you to show the underlying frequency distribution of a continuous set of variables. Often used for conveying statistical information. Unlike a bar graph, a histogram only displays a single variable.

Advantages:

  • Work well for displaying large ranges of data or information
  • Intervals are always equal, allowing for consistency with data
  • Easy to transform data from frequency forms to graph forms

Disadvantages:

  • Impossible to extract an exact amount for input
  • Inability to compare multiple points of data in one chart

Stem and Leaf Plots

Stem and leaf plots are charts that allow you to split data values into a "stem" and "leaf" pattern. This usually consists of putting the first value into the stem column and last digits into the leaf column. This type of graph is used for showing the frequency of the values that occur. 

Advantages:

  • Provide simplified methods for keeping scores
  • Easy to use and create
  • Can handle large amounts of data in an organized manner

  • Offers the ability to show ranges, minimums, and maximums for numbers quickly

Disadvantages:

  • Not a visually appealing method for interesting an audience
  • Can become messy and disorganized when a lot of data is added
  • Longer ranges and variances can be difficult to break down into useful data categories

Dot Plots

Dot plots are graphs used for displaying small sets of data and groups. These charts use dots to represent the frequency of information. Dots are displayed in columns that coincide with certain categories. 

Advantages:

  • Easy to create
  • Ability to show different categories in one graph
  • Doesn't require the use of computer for creating

Disadvantages:

  • Not visually appealing
  • Can be difficult to read with large amounts of data
  • Only works well with small sets of information

Scatterplots

A scatterplot is a graph that uses a series of dots to represent two different values of information being compared. The position in which dots are placed along the horizontal and vertical lines represent the value for that data point.

Advantages:

  • Ability to use for showing the connection of large amounts of data
  • Work for most types of data and subject matters
  • Provide an accurate flow of information being conveyed

Disadvantages:

  • Can be difficult for everyone to follow
  • Easy to manipulate data for false results

Time-series Graphs

A time-series graph is a chart that shows data recordings taken at regular time intervals. The time is represented on the horizontal access with waves that show the recorded information. These types of graphs are often used to show trends and patterns for different categories or subject matters that exist.

Advantages:

  • Allows for the understanding of past behaviors and future predictions
  • Subject matters are identified easily
  • Offers comparisons of two subjects at the same time
  • Gives the ability to follow present performance more closely

 Disadvantages:

  • Not always accurate with finding
  • Factors causing fluctuation cannot always be adjusted as needed
  • Factors being monitored may not always stay the same over extended time periods, causing unreliable data