# In­ter­pret­ing data

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - LEELA CHAKRABARTY ed­u­ca­tion@nst.com.my READ­ING AND IN­TER­PRET­ING Amount per serv­ing Fat 7g Sodium 160mg Fi­bre 1g 4 draw con­clu­sions, make com­par­isons, or answer ques­tions about the ta­ble.

WHEN you are re­quired to write an ar­ti­cle based on the graph­i­cal information given in the ques­tion for MUET Pa­per 4, you need to be pre­cise in de­scrib­ing the information or process and ad­here to the word limit which is be­tween 150 to 200 words.

Two ways to sharpen your skills at in­ter­pret­ing graph­i­cal information in­volve de­scrib­ing and in­ter­pret­ing the fig­ures or ta­bles.

To de­scribe, de­ter­mine how the fig­ure or ta­ble is set up. It is the part that ev­ery­one would agree about and is not a mat­ter of in­ter­pre­ta­tion. For in­stance, what are units on the axes (for a fig­ure) or head­ing of the col­umns (for a ta­ble)? Make sure you un­der­stand what these units mean. Pay at­ten­tion to the sym­bols on a fig­ure, the dif­fer­ences be­tween dot­ted and solid lines, and so on.

Now look at the pat­tern in the data. For a fig­ure with lines, what is their pat­tern? For in­stance, do they in­crease lin­early and then level off? In a ta­ble do the num­bers in­crease across the col­umn? Pay at­ten­tion to de­tail; that may be im­por­tant.

At this point you should have a pretty good idea of the ques­tion ad­dressed by the data set and the ex­per­i­men­tal de­sign — how it was car­ried out.

Now you are ready to in­ter­pret the data. What con­clu­sions can you draw from the pat­tern that you have de­scribed? What do these re­sults tell you about the phe­nom­e­non be­ing stud­ied? How do they fit into the larger pic­ture of eco­log­i­cal think­ing? Be­fore you look at the ta­ble, read the la­bels to see what is be­ing mea­sured and what units are used. You see ta­bles on the back of ev­ery ce­real box and food pack­ets — nu­tri­tion la­bels are a type of ta­ble.

Here’s an ex­am­ple of a nu­tri­tion ta­ble for potato chips.

Calo­ries 140

Choles­terol

Car­bo­hy­drate 17g

In this ta­ble, the la­bels are along the top row. The first col­umn shows the amount per serv­ing. There is no unit of mea­sure­ment listed be­side the la­bel be­cause the rows in the col­umn don’t share a com­mon unit. For ex­am­ple, fat is mea­sured in grammes, while sodium is mea­sured in mil­ligrammes. The sec­ond col­umn is la­belled “% Value”, and all the num­bers in this col­umn are shown as per­cent­ages.

The key to in­ter­pret­ing ta­bles is to read the la­bels care­fully. When you un­der­stand how a ta­ble is or­gan­ised, you will be ready to un­der­stand the information, A pie chart is used to show how a part of some­thing re­lates to the whole. This type of graph makes it pos­si­ble to view the data quickly and to de­ter­mine how things are re­lated. A pie chart con­sists of a cir­cle that is cut into pieces much like a pie would be cut. Each of the pieces rep­re­sent a dif­fer­ent set of data.

The pieces are cut based on per­cent­ages. The given data must be con­verted to per­cent­ages be­fore the pie can be cut into its ap­pro­pri­ate pieces. The dif­fer­ent pieces are usu­ally iden­ti­fied by a dif­fer­ent colour. A leg­end is of­ten used to dis­play what the colours rep­re­sent. The pieces should also be la­belled with the ap­pro­pri­ate per­cent­ages to help make ob­ser­va­tions more quickly.

1. Ta­bles

Nu­tri­tion Facts

2. Pie Charts

Ex­am­ple of a pie chart: Jog­ging

Surf­ing the In­ter­net Read­ing

Out­door Games

3. Sum­maris­ing Charts

5

Based on an in­ter­view with 100 stu­dents, “out­door games” is the pre­ferred ac­tiv­ity at 45 per cent af­ter “surf­ing the In­ter­net” stand­ing at 35 per cent. The least pop­u­lar is “jog­ging” at 5 per cent.

Sum­maris­ing charts al­ways in­volves mak­ing com­par­isons par­tic­u­larly if you have to de­scribe stages or have more than one piece of vis­ual ma­te­rial. Part of the task of or­gan­is­ing your answer in­volves de­cid­ing how to cat­e­gorise or group the information you need to com­pare.

In writ­ten re­ports, some­times we do not need to de­scribe statis­tics us­ing ex­act num­bers as this can be very bor­ing and dis­tract­ing for the reader. In­stead we use ap­prox­i­ma­tion to round num­bers up or down. Here are the ex­am­ples of de­scrib­ing num­bers in dif­fer­ent ways:

(a) 35,455: It is just over 35,000, thus, we could write it as — ap­prox­i­mately/roughly/around/about 35,000;

(b) 134,575 com­pared to 396,530: In this case, we could opt for one of the fol­low­ing phrases — “over triple”, “around 200% more”, “about three times as many”, “roughly 260,000 more”, “about a third as many” or “ap­prox­i­mately one in three”.

Re­mem­ber that in the exam you should use a

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