Tag Archives: data visualization

New-ish Charts for Evaluation

You know the drill: Better charts = better communication = better understanding = better decision making. Whether you’re trying to highlight the most important findings, simplify that lengthy report, or just get someone to open your report in the first place, charts can be one of your strongest communication tools.

Ready to move beyond the typical pie chart or line chart? Today I’m covering 4 awesome charts that are under-used (but extremely useful!) in evaluation.

Social Network Maps

Johanna Morariu's map of the #eval13 hashtag

Johanna Morariu’s map of the #eval13 hashtag

Although social network maps aren’t brand new to evaluation (read about them on aea365 here), I had to mention them because I’m still surprised how many evaluators aren’t using social network maps.

Social network maps help you understand relationships between organizations, people, or even conference attendees. But beware – social network maps aren’t for everyone.

Want to create your own? Check out Johanna Morariu’s tutorial on using NodeXL, a free Excel plug-in.

Tree Maps

Tree maps are for hierarchical or nested data, and they’re great for showing part-to-whole patterns. 

Here’s an example from Innovation Network’s State of Evaluation research in which Johanna Morariu, Kat Athanasiades and I examined the proportion of nonprofits demonstrating promising evaluation capacities and behaviors:

Sample treemap from State of Evaluation 2012

Sample treemap from State of Evaluation 2012

(Can you imagine that same data in a bar chart? It just wouldn’t work; all the relationships between nested variables would be lost.)

Want to learn more? Check out Johanna Morariu’s example that breaks down participants’ gender, age, and whether or not they completed a program. 

Dot Plots

Dot plots are similar to bar charts and clustered bar charts (but in many cases, they’re easier to read and a lot less cluttered).

Here’s a 5-minute overview about what dot plots can be used for:

(Better) Bar Charts

And don’t forget about the good ol’ bar chart, your go-to chart for most of your datasets.

But not all bar charts are created equal. It’s no longer acceptable to paste that default draft chart straight  into your report; you should expect to spend a few minutes cleaning up every single chart to improve its labeling and overall readability.

Once you’ve mastered the basic bar chart, try your hand at one of these newer variations, like a diverging stacked bar chart, floating bar chart, or small multiples bar chart. The bar chart’s versatility make it the most essential chart for evaluation.

Have you used any of these charts for evaluation purposes? Are there other new-ish charts you think the evaluation world should be aware of? Please share your ideas with the community!

Dataviz Copycat Challenge!

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Excel (click here if you don’t believe me). I love Excel because it’s nearly free and can accomplish 99% of my data analysis tasks.

Sometimes evaluators are hesitant to use Excel. One misconception is that Excel is only good for 3-D exploding pie charts, boring bar charts, and random radar charts. But Excel can do more than you think!

Innovation Network recently published State of Evaluation 2012: Evaluation Practice and Capacity in the Nonprofit Sector. Click here to download the report. I loved the visualizations in the report and wondered if I could re-create them in Excel.

Here’s a screenshot from page 7 of State of Evaluation 2012. The visualization shows the percentage of small, medium, and large nonprofit organizations that used quantitative and qualitative evaluation practices. Quantitative practices were more common than qualitative practices, and medium and large organizations were more likely to use these practices than smaller organizations.


And here’s what I made with a little Excel elbow grease:


The formatting’s not identical, but that’s not the point. Did you realize that you can manipulate Excel to produce almost anything you want?

I challenge you to re-create this State of Evaluation chart in Excel or R — no expensive software allowed. Email me your submission or tweet an image to @annkemery. I’ll post the solution on March 12, 2013.

What do you get for playing? A coffee or beer together, my treat, the next time you’re in DC; a workout for your brain; and bragging rights. Game on!