Using Survey Software to Analyze Your Answers IV
Up to now we have discussed presenting data in tables. There are other ways to present data. One of the most common is a chart. Pie charts and bar charts are the kinds most often used with survey data. Both kinds should offer you the choice between 2-D and 3-D charts.
Pie charts are more of a part of the vernacular than bar charts. People sometimes talk about “getting a bigger piece of the pie” or some thing or some group having a “bigger piece of the pie.” No one talks about getting a longer bar. For this reason many researchers use them. Sophisticated survey software offers some options that make them easier to read. You should be able to present the pie slices in rank order, if desired, and with or without displaying the percentages represented by each slice. You should also be able to show the labels directly adjacent to the slices or in a legend below or to the side of the pie.
When you want to compare the choices picked by two or more different groups, you need a separate pie for each group. These should be shown adjacent to each other to make comparisons easier.
One note about 3-D pie charts: They look prettier than 2-D charts to make many people, but make it harder to compare the sizes of the slices. You can alleviate this to some extent by displaying the percentages on our next to the slices, but still they may be a little harder to interpret.
Many experts believe that bar charts are clearer, offering easier to see side-by-side comparisons. You should be able to orient your bars either horizontally or vertically, as desired. When you want to compare the answers given by two or more groups, you should be able to choose whether to show the bars either stacked or grouped adjacent to each other. Stacked bars include all the people who picked a particular choice in a single bar, but have the bar subdivided to show how many people in each group picked that choice. Grouped bars show a separate bar for each group, with the bars from all the groups picking a particular choice adjacent to each other, with a gap separating that group from the group of bars showing answers to another choice.
Stacked bars have the advantage of keeping it very clear which choices received the most picks when aggregating everybody together. That can sometimes be harder to tell in grouped bars, which would require the viewer to add up to groups in their head, if the popularity of choices is close.
Grouped bars make it somewhat easier to see certain kinds of comparisons. One particular example is if the different groups make up different waves of the study or different time periods. Showing grouped bars makes it easier to see trends over time. Some people also find them easier to compare different demographic groups support for different answer choices.
Sophisticated survey software lets you present the charts you want to show. Less capable programs force you to show the charts they want you to show.