American Sociological Association

Review Essay: See It with Figures

The short story is that Kieran Healy’s Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction is a gentle introduction to the effective display of social science data using the R package ggplot2. It is beautifully put together, achingly clear, and effective. It takes pains not to repeat classic works on principles of visualization like that of Edward Tufte (e.g., The Visual Display of Quantitative Information), more detailed manuals like that of Hadley Wickham (e.g., Ggplot2), or arguments about general approaches like that of Leland Wilkinson (The Grammar of Graphics)—all of which are, however, explicitly discussed. Instead, this book is for the person with general programming facility who cannot manage to pick up ggplot on his or her own, or who will make bad choices if s/he does. Since I fell precisely into this category, I had ordered the book before it was released. If you fall into this category, you probably have already done so too. If you haven’t, you should. And even if you don’t fall into this category, chances are you should have it by your side.


John Levi Martin





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