Table 8-2: An Evaluation

The table below is from page 276 of William J. Gilmore’s chapter, “Deep Structure and Rural New England Mentalités: Reading and the Family Circle, 1780-1835”.

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This table was the easiest for me to understand out of all the ones included in Gilmore’s chapter, as it is focused on only a few key points that give a picture of how large family libraries of the Windsor District were from 1787 to 1830. Unlike the other tables it is fairly self-contained. I tend to struggle when it comes to interpreting tables, but by looking at this table before reading an explanation, I could understand what Gilmore is trying to show the reader. He supplies us with a range of library sizes in volumes and then the number and percent of libraries that were that respective volume size. While in some of the other tables the use of both number and percent of libraries wasn’t completely necessary, and fairly confusing, the inclusion of both in this tables was very helpful. In including both, the reader gets the sense of how many libraries were made of a certain number of volumes while getting an idea of the percentage of libraries these libraries made up of the total.

Hopefully my explanation of this table makes sense. If not, it just goes to show how difficult it is to explain some data in words and how vital it is for an author to include tables and graphs in his or her writing. That’s why it was helpful that Gilmore included this table in his chapter rather than just explaining it. While he does give an overall explanation on the page prior to 276, it’s rather difficult to explain, which is why it’s useful to include this data, as it gives a more encompassing representation of his explanation.

Although a graphical representation of this data isn’t really necessary, as the table is pretty easy to understand and visualize, the best way to represent it graphically would be with a pie chart. In doing so, the reader could actually see the differences in library sizes. In the case of library size, it would make sense to represent the data with a pie chart rather than any other graph because it would give the reader a more visual representation of how much a certain size library makes up out of the total libraries. For example, we could see from a pie chart that most libraries have 2-3 volumes as it makes up the largest slice of the pie chart. While this can be seen in the table as well, a pie chart  would give a better visual representation of the data, which is the only reason this graphical representation may be better than the table. The only downside would be that the number of libraries would not be numerically represented. While the percentage is basically representing that number, it was interesting to see the number of libraries that had a certain number of volumes. Because of the ease in interpreting this data table in comparison to the others, the only benefit to supplying a graph would be so the reader could gain a more visual understanding of the data through a pie chart.

The task of evaluating and recommending how the data could be graphically represented was very helpful when thinking about the upcoming paper. I didn’t quite realize how important it is to select the best, most helpful representation of data, no matter if it is in a table or chart. It will definitely make me think harder when it comes to representing my data in my paper. I’ll have to evaluate and analyze my own data to determine if I’m including too much, too little, or just enough and if the way I represent it is the best way to do so. I could see the difficulty in understanding some of the other tables in Gilmore’s chapter, and how that hindered my understanding, so I am definitely feeling more confident when it comes to creating my own table and graphical representations of the data, because I see how important it actually is.

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2 thoughts on “Table 8-2: An Evaluation

  1. I agree that using a pie chart for this table definitely has its advantages and downfalls. I think what Christine said in class about using the different sized dots was really interesting and something I hadn’t thought of before. I also considered a pie chart for this table, because it seemed like the only thing that I knew of that made sense. I guess this just goes to show how what tables can tell may be different than what graphs are able to tell.

  2. I completely agree with everything that you presented in your evaluation of this chart. When I was reading through it, I saw most of these same elements, but skipped over the role of the percents, as I had mentioned on Tim’s post. I did, however, use them to paint a picture of comparison that helped me to interpret that majority of libraries between 1787 and 1830 were between 1-9 volumes large and I was only able to successfully deduce this by combining the percents with the rest of the data. Also I would agree that a pie chart would be a great choice, as this was the second one I picked. I remember reading in Miller’s text that it is very efficient to use a pie chart when the wholes add up to 100; which they do here. Great interpretation, and I’m glad to see we had similar thoughts.

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