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    The Lie Factor – Finding Truth in Graphs, Graphics and Writing

    In order for a piece of writing to be valid, its information must be factual. This belief translates into its graphics as well. “Academic Research and Writing”, by Linda Bergmann, presents information detailing how and why it is important for graphics to display honest information. It additionally provides methodologies that readers can use to decipher truth in graphs, graphics and writing, and create their own. This quiz tests students on this information.


    Lie Factors greater than 1.05 or less than .95 indicate substantial distortion, far behind minor inaccuracies in plotting.


    The logarithm of the Lie Factor can be taken in order to compare overstating (log LF>0) with understating (log LF<0) errors.


    If the Lie Factor is equal to two, then the graphic might be doing a reasonable job of accurately representing the underlying numbers.


    The representation of numbers, as physically measured on the surface of the graphic itself, should be directly proportional to the numerical quantities represented.

    Violations of this principle constitute one form of graphic misrepresentation, measured by the formula below:

    Lie factor = size of effect shown in graphic/size of effect in data


    Clear, detailed, and thorough labeling should be used to defeat graphical distortion and ambiguity. Write out explanations of the data on the graphic itself. Label important events in the data.


    In practice almost all distortions involve understating, and Lie Factors of two to five are not uncommon.