When people talk about data visualization, they are usually talking about quantitative data. In a previous post, we explained that data visualizations help people perform three primary functions: exploring, making sense of, and communicating data. How can we report qualitative data in a way that performs those same functions?
We just got some exciting news from the EvergreenData blog that they have developed a Qualitative Chart Chooser. Seriously–it’s a work of art. Actually two works of art because they have two different chart chooser drafts to choose from.
The way it works is this: you think about the story you want to tell with your data, maybe about how something improved over time because of your awesome project. Then using the chart chooser, you look at the “show change over time” category, and then you could select a timeline, before-and-after “change photos,” or a histomap (what’s a histomap? Take a look at this one).
This chart chooser is a very cool tool. But I wouldn’t wait until it was time to report findings to use it. One thing that we at the NEO suggest is that when you are first planning your project, you should think about the story or stories you want to tell at the end of your project. Maybe when you’re thinking about the story you want to tell, you could look at all these different qualitative charts in the chart chooser. Which ones would you like to use? Do you want to tell the story of how your program aligns with the goals of your institution (you could try indicator dots)? Or maybe you want to show how the different parts of your project work together as a whole (a dendrogram might work). By looking at these options before you design your evaluation plan, you can be sure that you are gathering the right data from the beginning. Backing up even further in your planning process, if you are having trouble trying to decide what story or stories you want to tell, this Qualitative Chart Chooser can give you ways to think about that.
Here is some more information on qualitative data visualization and storytelling from NEO Shop Talk:
Qualitative Data Visualization, September 26, 2014
More Qualitative Data Visualization Ideas, December 18, 2014
Telling Good Stories About Good Programs, June 29, 2015
DIY Tool for Program Success Stories, July 2, 2015