Skip to Main Content

Data Management: Visualizing

This guide serves as a starting point for UNR faculty, students, and staff interested in research data management.

Best Practices

Edward Tufte, in his seminal book on the subject of data visualization, The Visual Display of  Quantitative Information, outlines several principles of "graphic excellence" to keep in mind:

  1. Show the data
  2. Provoke thought about the subject 
  3. Avoid distorting the data 
  4. Present many numbers in a small space 
  5. Make large datasets coherent
  6. Encourage eyes to compare data
  7. Reveal data at several levels of detail
  8. Serve a reasonably clear purpose
  9. Align the statistical, verbal, and visual

Before you create your visualization, consider what aspect of your data you'd most like to highlight and what points you wish to communicate to your audience. Choosing the right type of graphic (bar chart, line graph, box and whisker plot, etc.) to use is key. Several online resources can help you determine how to best represent your data visually:

A Famous Visualization...

Section of John Snow's Map of the 1854 London Cholera Outbreak

Physician John Snow's map of the 1854 London cholera outbreak showed that the disease was not caused or spread by "bad air" but through contaminated water sources. The map changed the way public health information is communicated.


Johnson, S. (2006). The ghost map: The story of London’s most terrifying epidemic and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world. New York: Riverhead Hardcover.

Data Visualization Tools