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GRAPHING 101: How to graph data for a science fair project

Posted by on December 28, 2011

Once you have your data, you will need to present it to your teacher and science fair judges. In a science publication, you would choose between a table and a graph, but for the science fair project it is acceptable, and even encouraged, to showcase the data in both forms.

Type of graphs: Your first choice is to determine which type of graph would best communicate your findings. Your basic choices are bar graph, line graph, pie chart, or scatter plot. In upcoming blogs I will provide specific details on how to make each type of graph, but here is the overview:

BAR GRAPH – This is the most common type for science fair projects. You may select a bar graph when your independent variable is qualitative (categories) or quantitative (numbers).

Examples of basic bar graphs. Note each axis is labeled and there is text directly under the graph to describe the graph.

LINE GRAPH – This is the second most common, but frequently used incorrectly, so be careful here. You should only select a line graph if your independent variable is quantitative (numbers) and you hypothesized that the changes in the independent variable would result in changes in the dependent one. For example, line graphs are great for showing changes in the dependent variable over time or distance along a transect.

PIE CHART – Pie charts are good for projects that have qualitative independent variables and have generated data that can be expressed as percentages of the total. For example, if your data were counts (i.e. the number of times something happened), then this might be your best choice to compare different treatments.

SCATTER PLOT – If the purpose is to see if the variables are related (common in environmental projects), but there was not a clear choice for independent and dependent variables (for example wind speed and water temperature), then a scatter plot would be your best choice. This option typically requires much more data than the others to observe a trend.

2 Responses to GRAPHING 101: How to graph data for a science fair project

  1. Dr. Maille Lyons

    Remember that data is the plural of datum.

    Above, I wrote “data were” and that might sound weird, but it is correct.

  2. renewable-energy-free-school-science-fair-projects

    Great tips for students working on their science fair projects. Excel is a great resource to turn to for creating neat and professional looking graphics for display boards and reports.

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