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A pie chart.

A chart or graph is a type of information graphic or graphic organizer that represents tabular numeric data and/or functions. Charts are often used to make it easier to understand large quantities of data and the relationship between different parts of the data. Charts can usually be read more quickly than the raw data that they come from. They are used in a wide variety of fields, and can be created by hand (often on graph paper) or by computer using a charting application.

Certain types of charts are more useful for presenting a given data set than others. For example, data that presents percentages of different groups (such as "satisfied, not satisfied, unsure") might be best represented as a pie chart, allowing the viewer to compare the size of each sector slice. On the other hand, data that represents numbers that change over a period of time (such as "satisfaction between 1990 and 2000") might be best shown as a bar chart (or histogram).

Usage note: many information graphics or diagrams include the word "chart" in their name but are covered in those other articles (e.g., flowchart, org chart, smith chart).

Types of charts

Common charts

  • A scatterplot uses Cartesian coordinates to show the relation of two or more quantitative variables.
  • A histogram typically shows the quantity of points that fall within various numeric ranges (or bins).
  • A bar chart uses bars to show frequencies or values for different categories.
  • A pie chart shows percentage values as a slice of a pie.
  • A line chart is a two-dimensional scatterplot of ordered observations where the observations are connected following their order.

Less-common charts

  • A box plot shows information about the distribution (minimum, maximum, mean average, etc.) along a single axis.
  • A Polar area diagram (developed by Florence Nightingale) is an enhanced form of pie chart.
  • A bubble chart is a two-dimensional scatterplot where a third variable is represented by the size of the points.
  • A radar chart (or "spider chart") is two-dimensional chart of three or more quantitative variables represented on axes starting from the same point.
  • A waterfall chart is a special type of floating-column chart.
  • A Doughnut chart

Field-specific charts

Some types of charts have specific uses in a certain field

    • Alternatively, where less detail is required and chart size is paramount, a Sparkline may be used.
  • Interest rates, temperatures, etc., at the close of the period are plotted with a line chart.
  • Scatter charts plot readings of two variables simultaneously as dots between the X-axis and the Y-axis, such as for price and earnings.
  • Marketers use a lift chart to highlight performance.
  • Project planners use a Gantt chart to show the timing of tasks as they occur over time.

Well-known (named) charts

Some specific charts have become well known by effectively explaining a phenomenon or idea.

  • Bode plot
  • Gantt chart
  • Nichols plot
  • The Nolan chart is a libertarian political chart.
  • Nyquist plot
  • The Pournelle chart is a political chart to categorize state and rational ideologies.
  • An Allele chart is a chart originating from the study of genetics to show the interaction of two data points in a grid.

Charting software

See List of graphing software

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