This page will support you in satisfying Writing Learning Outcome:
RESULTS - Illustrate lab data using the appropriate graphic/table forms.
You should be able to:
Explain the importance of tables and figures in communicating data (figures include all visuals other than tables).
Identify three common ways to present data.
Identify characteristics that allow tables and figures to be effective communication tools.
Use Excel to make simple graphs and tables.
Why are Properly Created Tables and figures Essential?
Data is the product of engineering testing and experimentation. It is the core of most engineering laboratory reports. Without thoughtful presentation of the data, the reader may never understand what the author is trying to communicate. Properly presented data in tables and figures can allow the reader to easily understand the results. When creating tables and figures, ALWAYS focus on addressing the purpose of the lab!
What characteristics Allow Tables and figures to be Effective Communication Tools?
Tables and figures can be effective tools for communicating information clearly and concisely. Characteristics to help achieve that include:
Purpose: The purpose of each table and figure must be clear and obvious to the reader. They must support the purpose of the lab report.
Data: transform raw data into results. Only results should be included: the data that directly supports the purpose of the lab.
Format: Tables and figure are visual tools, but before making either, make a conscience decision for how to best display the results (table or figure). Tables and figures should be formatted to help the reader easily understand what is communicated.
Conventions: Readers expect certain conventions. It is like driving in the United States – it is expected that you will drive on the right side of the road. Writing conventions allow the reader to quickly and effectively “navigate” the report.
Table headers and graph axes should include units. Numbers should have appropriate significant figures. Meaningful labels are used.
Tables and figures are numbered consecutively (Table 1 is before Table 2, etc.); the first table in the report is Table 1.
Captions should be descriptive. Captions are verbal explanation that accompanies every table and figure. They should concisely explain the information presented in the table or figure. This allows the tables and figures to “stand alone”; allowing the reader to understand the table or figure reasonably well without reading anything else in the report.
The number and caption should be ABOVE tables and BELOW figures (that's the convention)
All tables and figures should be discussed specifically in the discussion: Every table and figure should be numbered sequentially and specifically discussed in the body. Example of a discussion: "As shown in Figure 1, the relationship between force and elongation in the spring was linear. ... As shown in Figure 2, the effect of temperature on spring stiffness was ... As shown in Table 1, ..."
What Are Three Common Ways to Present Data and How Are They Best Applied?
Tables are lists of information in columns and rows. Tables show specific quantities well. For example, if we want to know the temperature in 10 major world cities on June 1, a table showing the temperatures in each city would be appropriate.
Graphs show trends or relationships. For example, if we want to know how the temperature in Seattle varies throughout a year, a graph plotting temperature as a function of the day would be appropriate. There are many types of graphs, but Excel "Scatter (X,Y) charts" allow the report writer to show correlations or relationships between the dependent and independent variables, and therefore, are generally the most appropriate graphing tool.
Figures (images such as photographs, schematics, maps and drawings)
Images display visual data (not all data is quantitative). For example, if we are trying to characterize the amount of corrosion on a test sample, a photograph may be ideal. In addition to communicating test data, photographs, schematics, or drawings are often included in the “Methods” section to show laboratory equipment, test specimens and/or overall test set-up.
Why Use MS Excel to Make Graphs and Tables?
MS Excel is ubiquitous; therefore, it is important to be able to use it to make basic graphs and tables.
Including information that does not directly support the purpose of the report.
Instead: Reports should show the results in the body of the report - results are derived from the raw data. Raw data generally should be included as an attachment or appendix.
Including identical results as both a table and a graph.
Instead: Decide which format most effectively communicates what you want, and include it only.
Using Excel "Line Chart" when trying to show relationship between dependent and independent variables.
Instead: Scatter (X, Y) would be the appropriate choice.
Not following conventions.
Instead: follow all conventions.
How Can I Learn More About Presenting Data?
There are many texts on creating good tables and graphs, but perhaps the best teacher is to look through engineering textbooks and observe what tables and graphs communicate to you. Pay attention to the details that the author included – do they help you (as the reader), or could they be better? Apply the knowledge you gain from doing this to your own reports.