36-315 Statistical Graphics and Visualization, Spring 2002

Tom Minka, Statistics Dept, Baker Hall 228D, minka@stat.cmu.edu
William Eddy, Statistics Dept, Baker Hall 132F, bill@stat.cmu.edu

Teaching Assistant:
Fang Chen, Baker Hall A60D, fangc@stat.cmu.edu

Lectures: Monday and Wednesday, 12:30-1:20, Doherty 2105
Computer labs: Tuesday, 12:30-1:20, Baker 140c or Wean 5205


Graphs are the most thorough and persuasive method for transforming data into knowledge and action. The aim of this course is to help you turn passive numbers into powerful statements.

Realizing the potential of graphics requires methods and basic principles. Data can be confusing, and a poorly-chosen graph can lose your audience's interest, hide the truth, or even lie. Statistical graphics is not merely the cramming together of information or making a novel kind of display. It is about effective communication: taking a potentially complex and confusing message and turning it into something readily and enjoyably understood.

Course Objectives

We will strive to teach you three things in this course:
  1. How to design an effective presentation of data.
  2. How to use visualization for exploratory data analysis.
  3. How to produce statistical graphics with the software package S-plus.

Relation to Data Mining

Data Mining (36-350) is a companion course offered in the fall which focuses on data analysis through visualization and modeling. It covers far more methods than covered here and is more advanced, requiring a greater knowledge of statistics. But 36-350 does not delve into graphical perception, maps, dynamic graphics, or interactive graphics. The visualizations used in 36-350 tend to be more technical and specialized for the purpose of analysis.


The schedule is organized around data of increasing dimension: 1-D, 2-D, 3-D, and beyond.

Grading policy

The grade will be based 50% on homework and 50% on the project. Homework each week will be to write up the result of your lab. The project will be developed in pieces during the semester and due during finals week.

Lab room assignments

Lab space is limited so the class will be split among two rooms. If your last name starts with A-L, go to Baker Hall 140c. If your last name starts with M-Z, go to Wean Hall 5205.