Using Meaningful Graphics

By Pearson Education Development Group

By now, your research project may have grown from a simple question to an interesting, information-packed paper or oral report. You've found information on the Web, organized your research, and decided how to present your information in a clear and exciting way. But you may also want to use visual aids to enhance your project and help communicate your ideas.

Why Use Visual Aids?

Sometimes, the best way to share important information is by using words. But other times, visual aids are more effective. Visual aids, such as charts, graphs, maps, and illustrations, can help you organize complex information and make your research easier to understand. They can also help make your project more interesting.

Charts, Graphs, and Tables

To present numbers or statistics, you can create a chart, graph, or table. A graph, such as a bar or line graph, is a good way to show changes that take place over time. Tables help you present mathematical or scientific data in a clear, logical way. For example, if you were giving a report on the solar system, you might include a table like this one, which shows the planets' distances from the sun:


Distance from sun (km)



















Diagrams, Illustrations, and Photographs

A diagram is a drawing that shows the most important parts of an object. Diagrams are usually labeled. They show what something is, how it works, or the relationships between its parts. In your report on the solar system, you might want to include a clearly labeled illustration, like the one below. This visual aid will make it easier for your audience to understand your topic.

You can also use photographs or drawings to illustrate your presentation. These help your audience to understand exactly what your report is about, especially if they are unfamiliar with the topic.


Maps can show all kinds of information. They can show the geography of a region, like rivers and mountain ranges. They can show historical information. You can use a map to find the borders and sizes of states or countries. Maps can even give statistics about population or agriculture. In short, maps offer a simple, concise way to show information. They also invite your audience to interpret the facts you have provided.

When Should I Use Visual Aids?

Useful visual aids will always enhance your research projects. They help illustrate information and allow you to provide additional facts to support your points. But be sure not to overuse graphics. Sometimes, a visual aid just doesn't work. For example, a pie graph might not fit into your project if your research doesn't include statistics. Use good judgement. Your visual aids should always have a purpose-they shouldn't just fill space on the page!

Before choosing a visual aid, think about what information you want it to convey. The right visual aid can enhance your research project and help you organize complex information. They'll also make your project attractive and fun to read. So-what kinds of graphics will you use?