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  3. Basic Visualizations

Basic Visualizations

Building on the work from module 6 related to understanding data, this module explores how to interrogate, analyze, and create data visualizations for purposes of research and argumentation.


  1. Increased understanding of different styles of visualizations and their value for research and presentation.
  2. Increased understanding of the data required to build different types of visualization.
  3. Ability to create at least two types of visualizations using free online tools (Plotly and Palladio).


Questions to Consider

  • Gibbs discusses the importance of data fluency, particularly to facilitate analytical reading of visualizations. Did, or does, your graduate program include training in reading and critiquing visual representations of information? How might you teach this skill to others, whether students or peers?
  • Based on the readings, particularly Gibbs and Graham, Milligan, and Weingart, what types of visualizations would work best with data sets found in your field? Which would be the least appropriate or intelligible visualization?
  • What omissions, such as Klein’s archival silences, might visualization of your data sets reveal?
  •  Do you see visualization as being more useful to your data and/or field as a tool for discovery early in the process or as a means of communicating findings and arguments?


What type of visualization is best for communicating your argument in data? Review this visualization: Agarwal, Amit. “Choose the Right Chart Type for Your Data.” Digital Inspiration. Accessed November 2, 2016. http://www.labnol.org/software/find-right-chart-type-for-your-data/6523/.

Explore the visualization tool Tableau by browsing its gallery of visualizations made with it: https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/gallery. Tableau offers desktop applications that can generate interactive visualizations from spreadsheets (including CSV, XLSX, and Google Sheets files) and JSON files, and offers options for embedding these visualizations on the web. There is a free public version as well as versions for students and instructors at accredited institutions.

If you are planning to visualize data, ask yourself the following questions about your visualization.


Activity 1. Plotly:

Follow the tutorial on this page to learn the basics of creating bar charts and scatter plots with Plotly, a web-based tool for creating data-based visualizations.

Activity 2. Creating a network visualization:

Read and work through the in-depth tutorial by Marten Düring, “From Hermeneutics to Data to Networks: Data Extraction and Network Visualization of Historical Sources,” available in The Programming Historian.

According to Düring, “network visualisations helped me to discover hitherto forgotten yet highly important contact brokers, highlight the overall significance of Jewish refugees as contact brokers and generally to navigate through a total of some 5,000 acts of help which connected some 1,400 people between 1942 and 1945.”

The tutorial discusses how to create an appropriate data set to represent social networks, offers sample data, and then walks readers through the steps of visualizing those networks using Palladio.

Project Lens

Kieran Healy’s visualization “A Co-Citation Network for Philosophy”

Updated on August 1, 2018

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