SUBJECT: TABULAR AND GRAPHIC PRESENTATIONS
NCES STANDARD: 5-4
PURPOSE: To ensure that tables and graphics displayed in NCES products
communicate information accurately, clearly, and efficiently. This will
allow the reader to easily and correctly interpret the presentation
as a stand-alone display.
KEY TERMS: point estimate, reference
year, and survey
STANDARD 5-4-1: All tables must be produced in accordance with
the "NCES Guidelines for Tabular Presentations"
STANDARD 5-4-2: Graphics must highlight important points.
STANDARD 5-4-3: All figures (graphs, maps, or charts) must be
understandable without reference to the text.
- Each figure must have a concise title that identifies the content of the
figure and the reference period for the survey.
- Each figure must include all notes necessary to convey information not immediately
evident from the main graphic, such as notes that define acronyms, explain special
terms, or define the underlying population included in the analysis.
STANDARD 5-4-4: All figures must be consistent with best practices
for graphical display. All figures must adhere to the following:
- Omit distracting detail. For example, avoid the use of three-dimensional
effects when only two dimensions are displayed.
- Be easy to read. For example, all elements (font, lines, labels, symbols,
segments, etc.) should be large enough to read with ease in the printed form,
easily differentiated, and legible when photocopied or printed in black and
- Be consistent with and prepared in the same style as other figures in the
same publication or product. For example, lettering should be of similar size
and font, lines of the same weight, symbols, or legends should be used for the
- Use consistent scales with consistent spacing when presenting similar units
- With exception of time-series, continuous scales should start with zero or
the minimum value of the scale. If used, scale breaks should be clearly visible;
- When using time-series data, time intervals should be plotted on a linear
scale and actual data points should be labeled.
- Include labels for all variables and categories.
- Clearly label all axes and include tick marks on axes.
- Prepare figures with patterns, screens, or colors selected to print clearly
across different media. In addition, all tables and figures must be in compliance
with Section 508 standards that require that information on web pages be made
"accessible" to people with a wide range of disabilities, including
vision and hearing impairments, dexterity problems, color blindness and even
rare conditions such as photosensitive epilepsy triggered by rapidly flashing
lights. For the full text of the law, see:
STANDARD 5-4-5: All figures must incorporate a complete source
note. A complete source note identifies all the sources relevant to
the data presented in the figure.
GUIDELINE 5-4-5A: For figures based on data from one or more
reports the Source should cite the report, relevant survey(s)
or sub-survey(s), data reference
year, file version number, department name, and agency name. In
the case of unpublished data, use the month and year of the tabulation
or data file. If the data are drawn from multiple years: for one to
three years, report each year; for more than three continuous years,
use the year span; and for more than three noncontinuous years use
"selected years" and the year span. (See Appendix D for
list of survey titles.)
Data from one or more reports:
Revenues and Expenditures for National Public Elementary and
Secondary Education: School Year 1997-98, Common Core of Data
(CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey" (NPEFS),
1997-98, Version 1, U.S. Department of Education, National Center
for Education Statistics.
Data from unpublished tabulations and a published NCES report:
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current
Population Survey, previously unpublished tabulations (April 1998);
and U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, Dropout Rates in the United States. Selected
GUIDELINE 5-4-5B: For figures based on data from a compendium report,
the source note should cite the compendium report and the original
survey or survey report (e.g., 1998 Digest of Education Statistics,
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Fall Enrollment 1997).
GUIDELINE 5-4-5C: For figures based on unpublished tabulations from
surveys that are not the main focus of the report, the source note should
indicate the data source followed by "previously unpublished tabulation."
GUIDELINE 5-4-5D: For figures based on online data tools, the source
note should cite the data source and the data tool.
STANDARD 5-4-6: Supporting data for figures must be included
in the publication or product. In the case of reports that are extracts
that summarize existing publications, supporting data are not required,
but summary products must refer to the full report. In the case of short
publications (i.e., 15 pages or less), if supporting data are not available
in a published report, they must be available on the Web and the publication
must refer to the URL. (See Web standards for URL format.)
STANDARD 5-4-7: All tables that should logically sum to either
100 percent, or to a numeric total, must include a notes that states:
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
STANDARD 5-4-8: Figures in the executive summary must be assigned
alpha characters consecutively and figures in reports must be assigned
numbers. Figures in appendices must be assigned the letter of the appendix
and a number suffix (e.g., figures in Appendix A must be labeled A-1,
STANDARD 5-4-9: Data for the outlying areas must be excluded
from U.S. summary totals, unless separate totals are shown.
STANDARD 5-4-10: When presenting multiple related figures on
one page, a summary title must appear at top of the page and each figure
must have its own title. When using multiple related figures from one
source on the same page, the source note must be provided at the bottom
of the page. When using multiple related figures from different sources
on the same page, source notes must be provided for each figure. These
source notes must follow the guidelines in Standard 5-4-5.
Data Documentation Initiative, http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/DDI.
Harris, R. L. (1999). Information Graphic A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference:
Visual Tools for Analyzing, Managing and Communicating. New York:
Oxford University Press.
OERI Publication Guide. (1999). U.S. Department of Education, Office
of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Schmid, C. F. and Schmid, S.E. (1979). Handbook of Graphic Presentation.
New York: Wiley.
Tufte, E.R. (1983). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.
Tufte, E.R. (1997). Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence
and Narrative. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.