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Data visualisation is key in communicating research

Image: Courtesy of Jane Lyons, Swansea University

Written by Cat Wilkins, ADRC-Wales


What is data visualisation?

Data visualisation is presenting information in a graphical or pictorial format. Visuals are processed in the brain thousands of times faster than text and are more easily committed to long-term memory – the bulk of information pouring into the brain is visual and unconscious.

Data visualisation presents information visually to simply and effectively communicate complex data and display trends, patterns, and correlations in an easily digestible way.

Visuals make it easier to tell stories with data.

Data visualisation of research

Data visualisation helps you communicate your research simply and successfully to researchers, funders and the general public.

You can present research findings visually through a combination of insights and data. You can use technology to create charts and graphs to represent research data in a comprehensive way.

Data visualisation is the key to sharing your research, displaying findings transparently, and simplifying complex information for all your stakeholders to digest huge amounts of information visually, all at once.

The relevance and importance of data visualisation for social science researchers lies in its ability to craft a compelling story of your research: the story is in the data.

Creating data visualisation

Visualising research is a way of reaching out to people, engaging with the public to tell the story of your research with a clear simple message. This requires planning.

Take time thinking about what you want to say with your visualisation, then try to say it in the simplest way possible. Use as few words as you can, reduce text, say it with an image.

Think about who your audience is and what you are trying to tell them. How much effort do the audience have to put in to process your visualisation?

Keep it simple. What is your story? Put it in a picture.

Create a connection with your audience.

Data visualisation resources

There is a range of online software and tools available to researchers looking to create data visualisations: Tableau and Inkscape are a good place to start.

Look to information is beautiful for data visualisation inspiration.

ADRC-Wales run a Health Data Visualisation training course at Swansea University.

The technical course is designed for beginners or individuals with some database experience through typical roles in a data analysis environment, seeking to expand their knowledge and understanding of manipulating healthcare related data through relational databases.

Find out more about the ADRC-Wales Health Data Visualisation course.

Written by Cat Wilkins from ADRC-Wales and published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Images used with permission.

Published on 10 July 2017

Page last updated: 27/07/2018