Creating Graphs in Excel

You can create a variety of graphs using Excel or other spreadsheet programs. What follows is for the 2007 version of Excel. Other versions may have different menus and options. Here's how to take your tabular data from lab and create a graph:

1. Open a new worksheet. Enter values for the horizontal (independent) axis on the first row of the worksheet. Enter values for the vertical (dependent) axis on the second row. For multiple trials, enter the values on subsequent rows. For example, if you are setting a series of voltages in a circuit and then measuring the resulting currents, the voltages would be in row one and the currents in row two. If you changed the circuit components, repeated the process and wish to compare the two trials, then the new set of currents would be in row three and so on.

2. Select/highlight all of the data (click the first cell, in the upper left corner, and drag the mouse over all of the cells used).

3. Select the Insert menu and choose Chart. Ordinarily you will use a Scatter chart, although there are other options.

4. You can customize the appearance of the chart through the Layout menu. This will allow you to add or alter gridlines, axes, etc. You can also use the Design menu for different variations such as using data smoothing, adding a trend line, etc. It is possible to change the axes to logarithmic or alter their range; and fonts, colors and a variety of secondary characteristics may be altered. In general, you can edit items by simply double-clicking on the item or by using a right-mouse click to bring up a property menu.

5. Once your chart is completed, you may wish to save the worksheet for future reference. To insert the chart into a lab report, select the chart by clicking on it, copy it to the clipboard (Ctrl+C), select the insertion point in the lab report, and paste (Ctrl+V).

Here is an example worksheet showing a plot of two resistors.


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© 2009 Jim Fiore