Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph

Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel


Table of Contents

What is a bar graph or a bar chart?

A bar graph or also known as a bar chart is a statistical representation of the data in quantities. Researchers use this method to categorize large data and manage them using numeric values. There are different types of bar graphs available that provide different visuals to represent numerical data made up of response and predictor variables. 

Bar graphs or charts are used to highlight the differences in numerical values of a group of data. It looks like vertical and horizontal lines which represent the values depending on the statistical value of each category. There are two axes for dimensions where one shows the statistical category and the other shows the measured value for comparison. 

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Types of the bar chart

Two wide types include horizontal and vertical bar charts. These types are further divided into subtypes which we will study in this section:

  • Horizontal bar chart

This type of bar chart represents data variables in horizontal bars. The data category is placed on the vertical axis whereas the numerical values are placed on the horizontal axis. 

As they are used to display the comparison between nominal variables. It is a convenient way to represent data as they grow horizontally depending on the numerical value, and you can still manage it on a single page. 

A horizontal bar chart is further divided as:

  • Horizontal stacked bar chart – this graphical variation is used for data segmentation where each bar represents a data category which can be further divided into subcategories. To distinctly identify those, it uses different colours too. This way, you can easily tell which subcategory makes up the most of the bar.
Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph

Horizontal grouped bar chart – in this variant as well, multiple data categories are compared but a particular colour is used to denote a definite series among all the plotted data categories. Also known as a clustered or multiset bar graph, this makes it easy to analyse the differences in the same data category by placing them side to side across data groups. It is used in market performance evaluation as well as in financial data comparison.

Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph
  • Segmented horizontal bar chart – it is a variant of stacked bar chart also known as a 100% stacked bar graph as each of its horizontal bars represents 100% of the discrete data value. All the bars are of the same length and the numerical variation is shown using percentages. 
Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph
  • The other two types of bar charts are a reverse horizontal bar chart and a basic horizontal bar chart.
  • Vertical bar chart

Also known as a column bar chart, this stands as the most commonly used type of bar chart. The vertical bars represent the numerical values and their lengths depend on their respective data quantities. 

Vertical bar charts also have various types like:

  • Vertically stacked bar chart – it uses vertical bars to compare data variables. It stacks data categories and each bar shows a total number of subcategories that contributes to the data set. 
Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph
  • Grouped vertical bar chart – also called a cluster chart, it also shows information about various data set and their subcategories. It is basically used to show several subcategories, and that is the reason why a grouped vertical bar chart can become complicated to read at a certain point.

Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph
  • Segmented vertical bar chart – this is the same as the segmented horizontal bar chart. The difference is that here, the vertical bar shows the discrete variables in percentages.

Bar graphs/charts: a guide towards making bar graphs using Excel bar graph

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Question samples for bar graphs

Questions that will require for you to draw a bar graph can look like:

  • The information below shows the population of the country in the last 10 years. Plot this information on a bar graph.
  • The information below shows the increase in the demand for hand sanitisers in the last 30 months. Plot this information on a bar graph to be visually understandable. 
  • The given image tells you the total sales of different cars of a company over a 5 months period. Plot this information down on a bar graph.

A guide to constructing various bar graphs in Excel

We are here to help you out in plotting the perfect bar graph for questions like above. Excel has been very commonly used amongst researchers to represent their data. So here, we will look at the exact steps that you need to follow to plot the below-mentioned bar graph types.

1. Creating a stacked bar graph

Step 1: Enter your data categories and their respective numerical values against them, to make it look like a tabular representation of the given question. 

Step 2: Now highlight all the data categories that you want in your graph axis. Make sure to highlight the headings including row and column headings. 

Step 3: Click on the “insert” tab on the toolbar and choose “stacked bar” (for horizontally stacked bar graph) from the options. Choose “stacked column” (for vertically stacked bar graph).

Step 4: Look at the representation of your data and adjust the rows or columns if you want to. To do so, click on the “design” tab and select the “switch row/column” option. 

Step 5: You can perform data summation which means summing up the value of your data categories by adding total labels to your stacked bar graph. To do so, right-click on the totality series and select the “add data labels” option from the menu. This should do the job. 

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2. Creating a grouped bar chart

Step 1: Enter the research variables in the spreadsheet using multivariate data categories. 

Step 2: Select the date ranges you want to represent in your bar chart.

Step 3: Choose the “insert” tab and click “column chart” (for vertical grouped bar chart) and “bar chart” (for horizontal grouped bar chart).

Step 4 (vertical grouped bar chart): Select the “clustered column” option in the 2-D column section and the vertical grouped bar chart would appear. 

Step 4 (horizontal grouped bar chart): Select the “clustered bar” option in the 2-D bar section and the horizontal bar chart will appear. 

You can go ahead and interchange the rows and columns by clicking on the “Switch rows/columns” option in the Design tab. 

3. Creating a segmented bar chart

Step 1: Enter your data variables into a spreadsheet in a tabular form. 

Step 2: Highlight the data categories and click on the “insert” tab on the toolbar.

Step 3: Click on the “bars” tab (for horizontal segmented bar chart) and the “columns” tab (for vertical segmented bar chart).

Step 4: Then select the “100% stacked column” icon under the 2-D option. 

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Advantages of a bar graph

  • It helps you to manage large data hence, simplifying the data analysis process. 
  • Plotting data in a bar chart allows you to easily compare, visualize and comprehend data variables in one go.
  • It makes it easy to track the data changes over time.
  • It allows you to represent various datasets over a period of time, unlike any other statistical tool like a pie chart.
  • For businesses, bar graph visuals make it easy for them to track customer engagement and revenue growth over time. 
  • It shows the relationship between research variables and their respective numerical values. 

Disadvantages of bar graph

  • The data gathered through qualitative techniques cannot be represented. 
  • In the case of large datasets, bar graphs can become complex to read and understand. 
  • Bar graphs do not account for any assumptions, patterns responsible for statistical variations. 
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