Nothing demonstrates a lack of credibility and insight like a poorly designed, oversized graphic in a report. It’s like a giant billboard for FAIL.
In this post, I present some of my favorite pie chart blunders. Pie charts were selected on the ability to provoke both hysterical laughter at the absurdity of the image and uncontrollable tears at the evidence that class time has been fruitless. These graphics have, of course, been rendered anonymous to protect the reputation of the business leaders of tomorrow.
Seriously? And was this information even worthy of a graphic? Graphics should make it easier to understand the information. Even if clearly distinguished colours had been used, this information, as simple as it is, might have been better expressed in the text.
What does this tell me?! What does it mean? If there is no title, I don’t know what the figure shows me. Percentages of what? Eighty what? I’m so confused!
This student is using a secondary source to argue that the use of Groupon can have a “massive” effect on a business’ bottom line. But to prove this statement, the student writer has distorted the facts. The source, an article in YPulse on Millenials and couponing, actually states that 32% of students have used Groupon and 48% are aware of the site but have never used it. The student manipulates the data and combines two figures to get 80%.
In addition to distorting the facts, the student omitted the date in the in-text citation and reference list. The date is clearly included below the title in the original source. Was this omission to make the data appear more current than it is? Because the data is manipulated, I am very suspicious of the writer’s credibility. His credibility was first compromised with the misspelling of “awareness”. With all these blunders, I don’t believe a word he says in the rest of the report.
I could show you other badly designed, unreferenced, or misleading figures, but since I don’t know where a lot of the information came from, thanks to students’ poor use of secondary material, I can’t share them with you. I also have to spare you the cut-and-pastes that are distorted, blurry, widened, or elongated and display nothing more than a lack of original content. Nor will I include figures shrunk so small that the text is unreadable.
As you prepare your reports, remember that these things matter:
• Visual appeal
• Clear titles and labels
• Accurate use of data
• Ethics in referencing.
Questions or suggestions about creating effective tables and figures? Please leave a comment! If you would like to be appalled by more bad graphics, see C.J. Schwarz’s “A short tour of bad graphs”.