
Plotting and displaying data 

Summarising and Grouping Data The number of observations falling into a particular class, or cell, is called the FREQUENCY, f, corresponding to that class. The complete set of observations can be summarised by the frequencies corresponding to each class. This is termed a FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION. Notation (a) Discrete Variables We can construct the frequency table as follows: The above method of forming a frequency distribution is somewhat antiquated. The procedure is much more efficient if you use a spreadsheet program like Excel. A frequency distribution for a discrete variable can be presented graphically by means of a bar chart This consists of a set of rectangles, the heights of which represent the frequencies. However, in most practical examples the width of each rectangle is made the same so that the area is also proportional to the frequency. We shall see that in certain circumstances it is more convenient to represent frequencies as areas. Consider the frequency distribution on the number of particles emitted by a radioactive source. Grouping of data Note that each class is denoted by two values. These are termed the lower and upper class end marks. We may define a class midpoint for each class as the mean of respective class end marks. In the above example the class midpoints are 7, 12, 17, 22, 27, 32, 37. Class midpoints are useful reference points when drawing bar charts. We define the class interval, c, as the difference between one class midpoint and the next higher one. In the above example the class interval is 5. Finally, for each class we define a lower and upper class boundary as follows: lower class boundary = class midpoint upper class boundary = class midpoint For the above example the classes may be described by means of the class
boundaries:
The bar chart for the data uses the class end marks to identify each class, as shown below. (b) Continuous Variables height (to nearest cm) 60  62 63  65 66  68 etc frequency 6 18 14 In this case the classes are really, 59.5 to 62.5, 62.5 to 65.5, 65.5 to 68.5, etc. A frequency distribution for a continuous variable is presented graphically by means of a HISTOGRAM (this is the name given to a bar chart based on continuous data). Note that adjacent bars in a histogram are drawn touching each other, whereas in the other bar charts discussed they generally are not. Consider the following example: The heights (in cm) of 140 nine year old trees of a certain type were
measured. The following table shows the data grouped into classes:
In this case the classes are really 49.5  79.5, 79.5  109.5, etc. Frequency Polygon Notice that the polygon is extended down to the horizontal axis to the midpoints of the classes that could be added at either end of the distribution, ie 34.5 and 274.5. Frequency polygons are arguably more useful in the visual comparison of two or more frequency distributions than histograms.




from SHU Science & Maths, 1998  