Using Graphs Instead of Tables in Political Science (with Eduardo Leoni)

    Perspectives on Politics, 2007, 5(4): 755-771

Abstract: When political scientists present empirical results, they are much more likely to use tables than graphs, despite the fact that the latter greatly increases the clarity of presentation and makes it easier for a reader to understand the data being used and to draw clear and correct inferences. Using a sample of leading journals, we document this tendency and suggest reasons why researchers prefer tables. We argue the extra work required in producing graphs is rewarded by greatly enhanced presentation and communication of empirical results. We illustrate their benefits by turning several published tables into graphs, including tables that present descriptive data and regression results. We show that key virtues of regression graphs are that they emphasize point estimates and confidence intervals and that they can successfully present the results of regression models. A move away from tables towards graphs would increase the quality of the discipline's communicative output and make empirical findings more accessible to every type of audience.

Click here to download a pdf copy of the paper.

We have a created a website, www.tables2graphs.com, that contains complete replication code for all the graphs that appear in the paper, as well as a few additional graphs that we did not include in the paper for space reasons.