Presenting your Data
Now that you have decided how to organize your data, how do you present it? Today’s information is based in part on A.V. Abela‘s popular Chart Chooser diagram which is also available in an interactive form. Although the chart chooser was designed for presentations, it is handy for papers also. My main point is you need to know what kind of argument you are presenting with your data. My second point is that most people can interpret comparisons better than absolutes so you need a reference point for your data. For example, is 80° a hot or cold day? It depends on whether it’s January or July. It depends on whether you’re in Waco, TX, or Anchorage, AK. All data needs some context.
So, go back to your hypothesis. What did you predict would happen? Make sure you present your data relative to your prediction. Did you predict your measurements would match a certain theory or model? Then plot your data with the theory or model. If you predicted a change over time, make sure you have a graph that shows that. Are you comparing Y as you vary X? Make sure that’s clear in your graph. Maybe show your results in relation to a standard. Sometimes your comparison might be on the same figure, sometimes you might be comparing two figures.
A caveat: If there is a standard format for the data you collect, by all means use it in your results section. That’s what your readers are expecting. But in your discussion/analysis section, think about simple creative graphical ways you can show whether your hypothesis has been supported or not.