Step One (Describe)
First determine how the figure/table is set up. This is the part that
everyone would agree about and is not a matter of interpretation.
What are units on the axes (for a figure) or heading of the columns
(for a table)? Make sure you understand what these units mean.
g m-2 = g/m2
Pay attention to the symbols on a figure, the differences between
dotted and solid lines, and so on.
Now look at the pattern in the data. For a figure with lines, what is
their pattern? For instance, do they increase linearly and then level
off? In a table do the numbers increase across the column? Pay attention
to detail; that may be important.
At this point you should have a pretty good idea of the question
addressed by the data set and the experimental design — how it was
Step Two (Interpret)
Now you are ready to interpret the data. What conclusions can you
draw from the pattern that you have described? What do these results
tell you about the phenomenon being studied? How do they fit into the
larger picture of ecological thinking?
Interpretations may well differ from person to person; this is to be
expected and makes discussions about data sets all the more interesting!
Return to Fall NR 495 course page
information is from the TIEE website