Member Training: Practical Suggestions for Improving Your Scatterplots

The scatterplot is a simple display of the relationship between two, or sometimes three, variables. You have a wide range of options for displaying a scatterplot. In particular, you can control the location, size, shape, and color of the points in your scatterplot.

Careful selection among these options will allow your audience to rapidly and accurately understand this relationship.

In this training, we’ll explain some important dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t use a gradient to represent a nominal variable.
  • Use open circles rather than closed circles if there is a lot of overprinting.
  • Vary the size or the shape of your data points, but not both.
  • Always pair color with another feature in your plots.
  • Most importantly, never blindly accept the first graph that comes out of your software program. Revise your graphs as often as you revise your writing.

Note: This training is an exclusive benefit to members of the Statistically Speaking Membership Program and part of the Stat’s Amore Trainings Series. Each Stat’s Amore Training is approximately 90 minutes long.

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About the Instructor

Steve Simon works as an independent statistical consultant and as a part-time faculty member in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has previously worked at Children’s Mercy Hospital, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Bowling Green State University.

Steve has over 90 peer-reviewed publications, four of which have won major awards. He has written one book, Statistical Evidence in Medical Trials, and is the author of a major website about Statistics, Research Design, and Evidence Based Medicine, One of his current areas of interest is using Bayesian models to forecast patient accrual in clinical trials. Steve received a Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Iowa in 1982.

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