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How to Create a Scatter Plot Graph in Google Sheets

Learn how to create scatter plot graphs in Google Sheets.

Using Google For Education tools, it is easier than ever to create graphs with your students. But you might wonder if it is necessary to learn this skill and how it might be used in the real world. In this blog post, you will learn how to create a scatter plot in Google Sheets. 

What are scatter plots? 

Scatter plots are similar to line graphs in plotting points on a graph. The difference is that with a line graph, the data for each point is directly related, whereas on a scatter plot, instead of seeing how points connect, you are looking for trends within the charted data. So, rather than seeing a series of dots connected by a line, a scatter plot shows dots on the chart but with what is called a “Trend Line” that runs through the chart. 

What you are looking for when you analyze data on a scatter plot is how the data from the x- and y-axis correlate to one another. 

  • If your data moves upward on the chart, it is a positive correlation. 
  • If your data moves downward on the chart, it is a negative correlation. 
  • If your dots are scattered all over the chart, there might not be a trend or correlation of data. 

However, it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation on a scatter plot. As a scatter plot can only measure two variables, it could be quite possible that other variables are linked to the correlation of data. 

Why are scatter plots used? 

Scatter plots are used to show the relationship between two sets of variables. For example, you can look at how much ice cream is sold at different temperatures of the weather, or you can look at how many books are sold on rainy days. 

This kind of chart can only be used when the data is related. If you’re looking to chart what pets your students have at home versus what books are their favourites, this is not the chart to use, as the two variables do not relate. 

One of your variables of data must be constant (such as the temperature), and the other can fluctuate (such as the amount of ice cream sold). When using a scatter plot, you are looking for the correlation of one piece of data to the other or the relationship between the two.

You don’t want to use a scatter plot if you have too much data, as that could lead to overplotting and make your chart hard to read. 

Why are scatter plots important to teach, and why should students learn them?

Learning any graph benefits students as it can be a real-life skill necessary for certain career paths. Even if students don’t use charts directly, learning how to analyze them and understand how data is represented on them is very useful. 

Scatter plots can help students learn how to look for trends in compiled data. It can help them learn how to extrapolate data from the charts they make and know how to make predictions based on the trends in the chart. 

Learning how to compile, organize, represent, and analyze data is invaluable and learning how to do this within a digital format such as Google Sheets can help students gain an appreciation for numbers and how data is represented. 

Even if students don’t plan to use scatter plots in the future, it is still a great way to get students to understand various Google resources and learn how to use them in a fun and interesting way.

 

How to create a scatter plot in Google Sheets

  1. To create your Scatter plot, you will first need data. Compile your data into a table. The 2 variables you are comparing will be the headings of the columns. In this example, we will look at the correlation between temperature and movie sales.

 

The data looks like this: 

2. To turn this data into a Scatter plot, highlight the entire table and select the Insert Chart symbol: 

3. If your chart does not automatically show up as a Scatter plot, double-click the chart to go to the Chart Editor. From here, under the Chart Type dropdown menu, select Scatter plot.

This is what the chart looks like: 

How can I make changes to my scatter plot?

It’s very easy to make changes to your graph. You can change the colours of your graph, the names appearing on your horizontal and vertical axis, the fonts and font sizes of your titles and labels, and so much more. 

The following changes can all be made by clicking the Customize tab in your chart editor.

4. To change the chart or axis titles, select Chart and axis titles. Make sure that Chart title is selected in the dropdown. Under Title text, write your new title. We can call this chart ‘Correlation of Temperature and Movie Sales.’ Under Title format, you can centre and bold the title. 

5. To add a trend line to your graph, go to Series and scroll toward the bottom. You will see a checkbox for Trendline – check this box to add one to your graph. 

From here, if you want to have your chart on a separate slide or Google Doc, click the three vertical dots at the top right of your graph and select ‘copy chart’ from the menu. Then paste (ctrl-v) your chart into a Google Slide or Doc.

You can paste it linked, which means that anyone viewing that slide or doc will be able to select the link and go to the raw data. Or, you could paste it unlinked, like putting an image in a document. However, if you plan to add more data to your chart when you paste it linked if you add more data to the Google sheet, you can then update your chart to reflect that data.  

Now that you know how to create a scatter plot in Google Sheets, I hope you can use it in the classroom. Scatter plots can be a lot of fun for students when they are learning about correlation and causation. As with other graphs and charts, learning how to use this kind of chart will help students learn the benefits of different charts. They will also continue to grow their understanding of how to compile, organize, represent, and analyze data. 

Hopefully, by teaching your students how to create a scatter plot in Google Sheets, you will give them a new appreciation of numbers and data and how they are collected and represented. 

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