Presenting Data Graphically to Increase Understanding and Impact

Jonathan P. Kastellec and Eduardo L. Leoni have written an article, published in a recent issue of Perspectives on Politics, in which they encourage academics to make much more frequent use of graphs to present data that is more commonly presented in tabular form. From the abstract:

When political scientists present empirical results, they are much more likely to use tables than graphs, despite the fact that graphs greatly increases the clarity of presentation and makes it easier for a reader to understand the data being used and to draw clear and correct inferences.

Here is one of their examples, and they are absolutely right; graphical data facilitates the making of almost instantaneous inferences regarding the results (or maybe I’m just a visual learner?).

When presenting data in your papers, think about what you want to say with the data and use the best format available to facilitate that end.


Kastellec and Leoni have crated a website that provides the code necessary to replicate these graphs in the R statistical program (which is a fantastic program that is free to download and use). Here is a link to the code for replicating the graph above.