Bar graphs and line graphs are fundamentally different in how they visually represent data. Depending on the type of data, one or the other graph may better show trends and comparisons between groups.
Bar graphs give readers a quick picture of trends and comparisons between groups. Blocks representing a particular data group are shown against a scale. The height of the block indicates the value of the data group on the scale. Use a bar graph when you want to compare values between more than one group -- such as number of sales per employee -- or to analyze changes over time -- such as the number of sales over four quarters per employee. Bar graphs work best when representing large changes over time.
Line graphs show changes using a line that connects data points at certain moments in time, such as tracking the average grade in math in a particular classroom over a school year. A line graph is also a good choice if you have data for more than one group to show comparisons over a certain time period. In this case, each data group would have its own line on the graph. A line graph can display high and low points, quick or slow changes, or a trend toward stabilization. In addition, line graphs can have more than two scales to compare a single value over more than one time period. Line graphs are better suited to displaying smaller changes than bar graphs.
- Photo Credit violetkaipa/iStock/Getty Images
The Difference Between Histograms & Bar Graphs
According to "Statistics in a Nutshell" by Boslaugh and Watters, bar charts are appropriate for displaying discrete data with only a few...
Difference Between a Bar Graph & Pie Chart
People use pie charts and bar graphs as two ways of representing data in a visual format. Both formats have strengths and...
How to Interpret Graphs & Charts
Graphs and charts are visual representations of data in the form of points, lines, bars, and pie charts. Using graphs or charts,...
What Are Bar Graphs Used for?
Bar graphs are used to compare the relationship between two variables, usually independent and dependent, over a period of time. They are...
The Difference Between Continuous & Discrete Graphs
Continuous and discrete graphs visually represent functions and series, respectively. They are useful in mathematics and science for showing changes in data...
What Is the Difference Between a Scatter Graph & a Line Graph?
On a line graph, a line connects points representing data, showing the linear relationship of the data. On a scatter plot, the...
Types of Graphs & Charts
Companies use many types of graphs and charts to convey information visually, such as sales figures trends or inventory amounts. Bar and...