Statistics For Dummies
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The most complex part of interpreting a statistical histogram is to get a handle on what you want to show on the x and y axes. Having good descriptive labels on the axes will help. Most statistical software packages label the x-axis using the variable name you provided when you entered your data (for example, "age" or "weight"). However, the label for the y-axis isn't as clear. Statistical software packages often label the y-axis of a histogram by writing "frequency" or "percent" by default. These terms can be confusing to others who have not studied statistics (unlike yourself): frequency or percentage of what?

Clarify the y-axis label on your histogram by changing "frequency" to "number of" and adding the name of what the y-variable is referring to. To modify a label that simply reads "percent," clarify by writing "percentage of" and the name of what the y-variable is referring to.


This example shows a histogram of ages of the Best Actress Academy Award winners. Notice that the y-axis is clearly labeled as "Percentage of actresses in each age group."

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Deborah J. Rumsey, PhD, is an Auxiliary Professor and Statistics Education Specialist at The Ohio State University. She is the author of Statistics For Dummies, Statistics II For Dummies, Statistics Workbook For Dummies, and Probability For Dummies.

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