Beyond Bar and Line Graphs: Time for a New Data Presentation Paradigm

Tracey L. Weissgerber, Natasa M. Milic, Stacey J. Winham, Vesna D. Garovic

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

258 Scopus citations

Abstract

Figures in scientific publications are critically important because they often show the data supporting key findings. Our systematic review of research articles published in top physiology journals (n = 703) suggests that, as scientists, we urgently need to change our practices for presenting continuous data in small sample size studies. Papers rarely included scatterplots, box plots, and histograms that allow readers to critically evaluate continuous data. Most papers presented continuous data in bar and line graphs. This is problematic, as many different data distributions can lead to the same bar or line graph. The full data may suggest different conclusions from the summary statistics. We recommend training investigators in data presentation, encouraging a more complete presentation of data, and changing journal editorial policies. Investigators can quickly make univariate scatterplots for small sample size studies using our Excel templates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1002128
JournalPLoS biology
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 22 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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