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jvanderweele

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Stephen,

Great book, we are finding it very helpful in our work.

One thing I didn't come across in any specific section of the book was a discussion about "N".  In my work, our group has disagreement about whether every chart needs to have an "N" or not.  We use SPSS software, and there is the ability to include individual counts on the chart but not an option I've found for N.  Adding N to every chart isn't ideal in my view.

Is there a standard rule you use in whether or not the exact number is disclosed that was used to make a chart?  We deal with survey questions and show the percentage of responses for each answer.  I find an accompanying table with counts is enough, but some disagree and argue the chart should disclose "N".

What thoughts or suggestions do you have on this issue?

Thank you,
Jason

sfew

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Posts: 814
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Jason,

Whenever you prepare charts to tell a story, every component and the way you present them should pass the same fundamental test: "Does this promote essential understanding?" If knowing the population of respondents to your surveys helps your audience understand the story, its worth including. Once you decide to include something in or with a chart, a further question that you must ask is "How important is this information relative to other information?" The value of "N" is probably useful, but not nearly as important as other information, so it would make sense to include it in a way that doesn't call attention to itself. For instance, it might be appropriate to include the value of "N" along with other supporting details in a footnote. If there are cases when the value of "N" is more important than usual, such as when you have a particularly small population of respondents--so small that conclusions should be considered with a high degree of uncertainty--it would make sense to draw attention to "N".


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