How to make a bar graph with error bars in Excel

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1 How to make a bar graph with error bars in Excel This document provides instructions for how to use Excel to produce a bar graph. Use these instructions for graphing when your underlying independent variable (graphed on the X axis) is categorical, and you want your bar graph to illustrate average values for your dependent variable (on the Y axis), with error bars indicating standard deviation around the mean. An example is shown in Figure 1. Average number of contractile expulsions per minute Baseline Saline Deionized Solution tested Figure 1. Average number of contractile vacuole expulsions in Paramecium under different environmental conditions. Before you begin Before you can begin graphing your data, it needs to be entered into Excel. Typically, you will put the data for each experimental treatment in different columns. You will also need to have the average and standard deviation (or other measure of variation around the mean) calculated for each treatment. There are several different mechanisms in Excel for calculating average and standard deviation. You can select Function on the Insert menu of the toolbar, you can use the Autosum icon ( ) by clicking on the arrow on the icon and selecting Average. Or, you can type in the function directly in a cell, e.g., =average(a1:a10) or =stdev(a1:a10). The data set we will use in the handout is based on a hypothetical experiment in which the rate of contractile vacuole expulsion was measured in Paramecium (a single-celled freshwater protozoan) living in environments of differing osmotic concentrations (Figure 2). Page 1 of 6

2 Figure 2. Data set used in this handout. 1. Use the mouse to select the average values, as shown in Figure 3. Next, click on the Chart Wizard icon ( ) on the toolbar. In Chart Wizard Step 1 of 4, select the Column type of graph, and be sure that the Chart sub-type shown in Figure 3 is selected also. Click. Figure 3. Selecting the data to be graphed; Chart Wizard Step 1 of In Chart Wizard Step 2 of 4, your graph should look similar to Figure 4. If now or in future graphing the chart does not look like you expect, you may need to select the Columns button instead of the Rows button if your data are arranged differently. 3. Still in Chart Wizard Step 2 of 4, click on the tab. Click on the icon at the right of the Category (X) axis labels menu selection. Use the mouse to select the cells that contain Page 2 of 6

3 the column labels (Baseline, Saline, Deionized), and click on the icon again (Figure 5). The X-axis now has the appropriate labels. Click. 4. In Chart Wizard Step 3 of 4, you can add labels to the entire graph. Click on each tab and explore the options (e.g., Figure 6). When you are done, click. 5. In Chart Wizard Step 4 of 4, you select where to place the finished chart. I like to place it in a new worksheet in the same workbook so that it doesn t clutter up my worksheet space. You can give the graph a name so you can easily find it again on the tabs at the bottom of the screen (Figure 7). Click to see your graph. But it is not complete yet! You still need to add the standard deviation values to your graph in the form of error bars. Figure 4. Chart Wizard Step 2 of 4. Page 3 of 6

4 Figure 5. Selecting the X axis labels. Figure 6. Chart Wizard Step 3 of 4. Figure 7. Chart Wizard Step 4 of 4. Page 4 of 6

5 6. Go to your graph, and right click on one of the bars and select Format Data Series. Here you can explore the options for changing some aspects of your graph the color of the background, the format of the bars, etc. Play around a bit, and when you re done, click on. 7. Select the Display option Both, which will produce error bars both above and below the mean. For Error amount, choose Custom (as shown in Figure 8). We need to tell it where to find the values for one standard deviation above and below the mean. So, click on the button for the + box. When the window minimizes, switch to the worksheet containing your data and highlight the cells containing the standard deviation values (Figure 9). Perform the same procedure for the - box. When you are done, click, and take a look at your finished graph (e.g., Figure 10). You are done! Figure 8. Adding Y error bars to the graph. Figure 9. Selecting the standard deviation values for the Y error bars on the graph. Page 5 of 6

6 Average number of contractile expulsions per minute Baseline Saline Deionized Solution tested Figure 10. Average number of contractile vacuole expulsions in Paramecium under different environmental conditions. Page 6 of 6

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