Table Analysis and Evaluation

In the article “Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life,” author William Gilmore uses both tables and graphs to effectively represent data in his text. On page 273, Gilmore uses a table to express the ‘Size of Windsor District Family Libraries’. However, I think he would have found more success in using a graph.

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Although the table is straight forward after a second or third read, it feels a bit cluttered. The table is divided in a number of ways. First, the table looks at the number of books present in libraries for three different year ranges: 1787-1800, 1801-15, and 1816-30. The library holdings are divided into clusters, ranging from 1 to 15+, and are given in both percentages and whole number form. Under all of this data there are also cumulative percentages based upon the same time frames. Again, these library holdings are divided into clusters, although here they are only listed by percentage. I feel like the complexity (and frankly lack of clarity) in this explanation of the table demonstrates is cumbersome nature. I’m having a hard time writing about it, because there is a lot of data and it is densely organized. There is a lot going on, and although I understand its material now, I was initially very confused about what the table was covering.

There are two things that confuse me most about this table. The first is that there are so many things being evaluated in this single chart. It lacks focus, looking at number of volumes, percentages, cumulative percentages, three timeframes, and many other divisions, all in a graph that does not even cover half a page of text. I think that the table would have been stronger if divided into two tables–one that focused on the ‘Number of Volumes in Library,’ and another that looked at the ‘Cumulative Percentages’ of the libraries. My second major issue with the table is that the data it represents is not uniform. For the ‘Number of Volumes in Library’ section the conclusions are given in both No. and %. However, these two numbers do not match up exactly because the percentages are not always out of 100%, which can skew the data. Although the data might be consistent in terms of the table itself, I found the data hard to compare. And for the ‘Cumulative Percentages’ section, the conclusions are only listed as percentages, however, these percentages are not clear at first read. The divisions compound on each other. I think that it is neat to be able to look at the table and see that between 1787-1800 43% of libraries had Over 3 Volumes, but again I don’t find these numbers particularly comparable. I think that the biggest flaw here is that too many types of data are being calculated in the table.

Wow, it’s really easy to critique someone else’s table, but I’m sure that I won’t feel the same way when I have to turn my own into a graph. However, I do think that this table could be a lot stronger if graphically represented. First, I would start by breaking the table into two sections. I would leave the ‘Cumulative Percentages’ information as a table because I can’t really imagine how it could be represented graphically. At first I was thinking of a bar graph, but I think that with how the data is separated the graph would be misleading. The divisions are so dependent on each other that I think comparing them as bars would be strange. But I would make the ‘Number of Volumes in Library’ section into a bar graph. I think that it would work best if each year range was its own color bar, and the horizontal axis was separated by the number divisions given in the table. I would also get rid of the percentage representation, because again I think that these values can be misleading because they are not always out of 100%. I would stick with the whole number representations, because I think that these numbers lend themselves well to a bar graph. Ideally, this table would be turned into a graph much like the one we looked at toward the end of last class. Together, I think that this more simplified table and the new graph would explain the information in the original table more effectively.

Talking about tables and graphs was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I was genuinely confused on how to convert some of what I was seeing into words, so sorry if my post was a bit scattered. That said, I am excited to have my own try at making a graph for paper 2. I guess we will see how it goes.

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2 thoughts on “Table Analysis and Evaluation

  1. It was interesting how you started your post saying that Gilmore used tables and graphs to effectively represent his data, and then began to question whether or not that was actually true while you were evaluating the table and finding it hard to understand. I am wondering what Gilmore was thinking when he was using this table. Since the goal of a successful table is to clarify rather than confuse, I’m not quite convinced that this table of his is his best work. I guess I’m just wondering why he wouldn’t try to simplify as much as possible so that his audience would have a better time going about reading his data and analysis of it. I agree that a graphical representation might be better, and I like your ideas on how to go about doing that.

    • Good to see that we didn’t all do Table 8-2! I agree that the table is confusing. Perhaps it would be better for him to have included only the percentages, instead of both number of volumes and percentage, or just volumes. Otherwise, it would be harder to compare between the two tables.

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