36-315 Statistical Graphics and Visualization, Spring 2003

Tom Minka, Statistics Dept, Baker Hall 228D, minka@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, Wean 5202


Graphs are not decorations; they are a powerful mechanism for representing and interpreting data. They can provide more information than statistical tests and are often more convincing. Graphs are often the quickest path to winning an argument and producing action. This course teaches the methods and principles which will allow you to realize the full potential of graphics.

Course Objectives

In this course you will learn:
  1. How to critically interpret graphics appearing in the popular press, academic publications, and software packages.
  2. How to choose the right graph for the point you are trying to make or, if necessary, how to design a new kind of graph.
  3. How to create statistical graphics using the R software package.
  4. How to analyze data and answer statistical questions with graphs.

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



Final grade breakdown:

Each homework assignment will be worth 100 points. These points will be divided approximately equally among each of the parts of the assignment.

The lowest homework grade will be dropped except if it is the last assignment of the semester which is mandatory. The remaining homework grades will be used to compute the homework average. The same procedure is used for computer lab grades.


All work and computer code must be your own. Sharing code or answers will result in zero credit and a letter to your dean. See the CMU Student Handbook on Cheating and Plagiarism.