Say you’ve got some great survey results and now you’re ready to write a report, or a blog post, or a presentation. Including charts and graphs is a great way to visualize your data. But if you’re not experienced in data visualization, you might not know what type of chart or graph is best for your data.

1. Open-Ended Questions

Questions where people are able to input their own responses are the trickiest to graph. Depending on the size of your data sample, you will have to either manually group answers into categories or use keywords to group answers. Once you have numbers for each category, you can chart your data.

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A classic bar graph allows you to compare multiple categories on one graph.

2. Binary Questions Responses

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Questions that only have two answer options, are best visualized using charts that will emphasize the differences or similarities between both percentages. A pie chart shows how two or more parts make up a whole. Because it can be difficult to discern exact percentages on pie charts, be sure to label each segment.

An icon chart accomplishes the same thing but in a more fun and thematic way. Keep in mind that icon charts don’t portray proportions are accurately as pie charts, so don’t use them in formal assignments. Like pie charts, it’s important to label the segments of an icon chart.

3. Data Spanning a Large Geographical Region

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If you have a large sample of data that spans across a large geographical region (like a country-wide survey), a map chart will emphasize the volume of the population represented by each data point.

4. Showing a Trend Over Time

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If your survey tracks data over a period of time, a line chart is your go-to chart type. Line charts allow you to plot multiple points and draw a connective line between them. These are particularly useful for presentations where you want the data to make an impression on the audience; line charts can be dramatic.

5. Rating Scale Responses

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Many surveys ask people to answer using either the standard scale (1 - 100), the STAR scale (1 - 5), or the matrix scale (“Strongly Disagree,” “Disagree,” Neutral, “Agree” and “Strongly Agree”).

If you are only asking people to rate on a scale of 1 - 5, you can use a bar or column graph.

For a larger scale, take the average score and use a standard pie chart or a donut chart.

Here’s a rule of thumb: make sure your chart or graph can be understood in no more than five seconds. Using a descriptive title and labelling your chart will make it clearer to readers.

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Got any questions about charting survey data? Leave a comment below.