3.2 Aims: Exploration vs. Explanation/Presentation

  • Exploratory graphs: “forces us to notice what we never expected to see” (Tukey 1977, vi)
    • Audience: Ourselves (during research process)
    • Objective(s): Explore and interact with the data (size, complexity, characteristics, distribution)
    • Approach: Produce many graphs (quick and dirty)
  • Explanatory graphs: “forces readers to see the information the designer wanted to convey” (Kosslyn 1994, 271)
    • Audience: Others (of different characteristics) at the end of our research
    • Objective(s): Show to, communicate to and convince others (tell story)
    • Approach: Produce a final graph that is carefully crafte (and beautiful)
  • Rapprochment between strictly exploratory and confirmatory appraoches (Healy and Moody 2014, 113)
  • Interactivity is great for exploration!


Healy, Kieran, and James Moody. 2014. “Data Visualization in Sociology.” Annu. Rev. Sociol. 40 (July): 105–28.

Kosslyn, Stephen Michael. 1994. Elements of Graph Design. WH Freeman.

Tukey, John W. 1977. Exploratory Data Analysis. Vol. 2. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing.