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Data Visualization

Data Visualization is a way to help researchers explore and communicate their data. Start here for resources to help you make useful charts and graphs.

Why visualize?

Explore Your Data

Viewing data can help reveal trends and outliers that may lead to new questions and discovery. For example, in Anscombe's Quartet, four sets of numbers appear similar in table form, and basic calculations of mean and variance show no differences. Visualizing however, reveals distinct trends in the data.

Communicate Your Data

Charts and graphs are an essential part of publishing your research, and it is important that they efficiently and effectively communicate the data to readers in the research community. A growing number of computer tools can help you build effective and attractive visualizations for your publications. Data Viz skills can help you quickly communicate the information your audience needs with a minimum of extraneous visual information.

Visualization Tools

A large and growing amount of software tools can help you create your visualizations. Here are a few that may be of use to you:

 

  • R & RStudio - R is an open source language for statistical analysis with several visualization packages available for download. R Studio is open source an integrated development environment (IDE) for R. R is ideal for users interested in working with code, and boasts a robust online user community.
     
  • SPSS - SPSS is a statistical software program for conducting analysis that also offers a convenient user interface for generating charts and graphs. The charts and graphs are highly customizable.
     
  • Piktochart - A website for quickly creating infographics and attractive posters, flyers and memos. This site provides a free version and a subscription that includes more templates and higher resolution images.
     
  • The Noun Project - A site of icons and images that can be used in presentations for attractive, minimalist images. Be sure to cite creators!
     
  • GraphPad Prism - GraphPad Prism is a software for graphing and statistical analysis. The program offers a Graphical User Interface (GUI), making it ideal for users who do not want to work with code.
     
  • MATLAB - MATLAB is a proprietary computational programming language used throughout the sciences and engineering. 
     
  • Tableau - Tableau is a commercial data visualization software, with a free version available online (though be cautioned, data visualized in the public version is published online). The tool provides a convenient, intuitive GUI interface for making attractive, interactive visualizations quickly.
     
  • Cytoscape - Cytoscape is an open source tool for visualizing networks with a focus on biology and life sciences. Cytoscape provides a GUI for manipulating graphs and was designed explicitly for modeling molecular interaction networks and biological pathways.
     
  • Adobe Creative Cloud - Adobe Creative Cloud is a suite of tools for graphic design, photo and video editing, and web design. The suite is offered for free to faculty and staff at the NYU Langone MCIT Software Portal. For individuals who are not medical center faculty and staff, open source alternatives like Inkscape (for Illustrator-like capabilities) and GIMP (for Photoshop-like capabilities).

Health Science Library Services

The library is available to offer consultations on visualization design best practices, choosing a type of chart or graph, and appropriate tools for your project. We are also available to lead small courses on visualization best practices and certain specific tools.