Analyzing charts and graphs, a listeners point of view. In an academic or professional setting, it is common to hear presentations where the speaker includes charts or graphs. Why is that? Well, charts and graphs can easily show data about a variable, or show relationships between variables. Data is usually collected from experiments or surveys, and the results are often used to support the speaker's point about a topic. There are three popular charts and graphs that you should be aware of. A line graph, a bar graph, and a pie chart. A line graph. This is often used to show how something changes over time. It is usually a line formed by connected points on a graph. A bar graph. This is a good tool to show data that can be separated into categories or groups. It can be used to show changes over time, or differences between categories. A pie chart. This is an easy tool to show proportions in relation to the whole. When the speaker starts to introduce a graph or chart, as a listener, it's important for you to think about the following areas to aid in your understanding. What is the premise of the experiment? What is the researcher trying to find out? You need to pay attention to the introduction. Usually, the speaker will give a quick introduction about this by giving a signal. Like in year, name of researcher, tried to find out. In many cases, the speaker will provide an image of the chart or graph and continue to talk about it. Using keywords like the chart shows, the graph shows, or the findings show. Keep in mind that the speaker may or may not explain the chart or graph in detail. So if you are not able to catch all the information, try to notice what text appears in the chart or graph to make a guess. If however the speaker decides to explain in detail, it's helpful for you to be familiar with vocabulary and language that is related to the specific graph or chart. I will start with line graphs first. Again, line graphs are often used to show changes over time, but not in all cases. In a line graph you have the x-axis or the horizontal axis, then you have the y-axis or the vertical axis. These represent two variables that the researcher is using to study the data. The speaker can choose to focus on one set of data in which there is only one line, or the graph can have two or more lines. Which means the speaker not only wants to focus on two sets of data and how they change over time, but how they are similar or different from each other. Here is a study that is comparing to women who are training themselves to swim five laps. On the x-axis we see practice numbers, on the y-axis we see minutes. The study is about seeing how much time each woman takes to swim 5 laps over 5 practice sessions. There is a box here that has line colors and the name of the two women. This box is called a legend and it is usually telling you which line represents which data set. Here, the blue line represents Shonda and the orange line represents Karen. Speakers will often use language of change to describe line graphs. For Shonda between practice 1 and 2, there was an increase of 1 minute to swim 5 laps. However, from practice 2 to practice 5, there was a steady decrease of time it took to finish. By the 5th practice, she hit a low of 6 minutes to do 5 laps. Looking at Karen's performance, she had an overall downward trend. Because she started with 12 minutes for 5 laps in the first practice, but by the 5th practice she reached a low of 3 minutes. From practice 2 to 3, you can see a significant decline from 9 minutes to 4 minutes. From practice 3 to 4, she plateaued at 3 minutes. For both swimmers, there was a negative correlation between the number of practices and the amount of time it took to complete the laps. In other words, the more they practice, the less time it took for them to complete the goal. Given the graph, I could not use every type of language to show change, so refer to the chart below to see variations of the language. Speakers sometimes add adverbs or phrases to change the speed of going up or down, like gradually, at a steady rate, sharply, significantly. To show you how sudden or not sudden the changes, gradually and a steady rate do not show sudden change, while sharply or significantly do. Bar graphs are similar to line graphs in that there is an x-axis and a y-axis. While it is still possible to show change over time, many researchers use bar graphs to study similarities or differences across different categories. What this means is that it is possible to have a variety of categories on the x-axis. Take a look at this bar graph, a new building is being built and there is a large room that the director of the school is deciding on what to change it to. She decided to make a survey to ask students to choose from the following categories, sleeping room, game room, study room, café, or exercise room. She was also interested to see how female and male students vote differently. Here are the results. I will now be using language to show comparisons. The findings show that both male and female students prefer the room to become a café the most, and they prefer the study room the least. Female students prefer a sleeping room slightly more than male students. The number of males who prefer an exercise room is about two times more than females. The number of males who prefer a game room is about the same as males who prefer a sleeping room. Comparison language can be looked at in the following continuum, be the least, be less than, be the same as, be more than, be the most. For be less than and be more than, it is possible for the speaker to show the amount of difference with words like a lot, significantly, slightly, or a little. It's also possible to use number times more than, or number times less than. Look at the following example, there were 52 males and 25 females who wanted the exercise room, that's a little more than 2 times. The number of males is about 2 times more than females, or the number of females is about 2 times less than males. Did you notice I used about 2 times more? Well, there are some words that show the number is not exact but close in amount, like approximately, around, nearly, or about. Lastly, pie charts are used to show a situation where there are parts to a whole, and you are trying to compare the parts. For example, using the same survey from the bar graph, let's just take a look at the male students results. In total there were 191 male students who participated in the survey. The largest group of male students prefer the room to be a café at 32%. A little over a quarter of the students prefer it to be an exercise room. A 5th of the students prefer to be a game room. 18% of the students prefer to be a sleeping room. Finally, a very small minority of students prefer it to be a study room. From the underlying parts, you can see that the speaker may choose to describe the parts in the following ways, using adjectives, percentages, or fractions. Please be aware that the language that I have just reviewed is not specific to each graph or chart. What I mean is that it's possible to find percentages in line graphs or language of change in a bar graph. Naturally it is difficult for you as a listener to predict which words the speaker will use during the presentation. But remember, the more practice you have listening to this kind of language, the more you can catch. Also, a graph or chart is just part of the presentation. If you are not able to catch all the descriptions, don't worry, the key is to understand what overall point the speaker is trying to convey with the results.