What Type of Data Do You Need to Plot a Histogram?


Scott Campbell

When it comes to analyzing data, one of the most commonly used tools is the histogram. A histogram is a graphical representation of data that provides insights into its distribution. It allows us to understand how the data is spread out and identify any patterns or trends.

What is a Histogram?

A histogram is a bar graph that represents the frequency distribution of a dataset. It consists of vertical bars, where each bar represents a range of values, and the height of the bar corresponds to the frequency or count of data points falling within that range.

Why Use a Histogram?

Histograms are particularly useful when dealing with large datasets or continuous variables. They allow us to visualize how the data is distributed across different ranges and identify any outliers or unusual patterns. Histograms are widely used in various fields such as statistics, finance, and market research.

Types of Data Suitable for Histograms

Histograms are best suited for numerical data, specifically continuous variables. Continuous variables are those that can take any value within a certain range, such as height, weight, temperature, or time. Discrete variables, on the other hand, have distinct categories and cannot be measured on a continuous scale.

Gathering the Data

In order to plot a histogram, you first need to gather your data. The type of data you need depends on your specific research question or analysis goal. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Scientific Experiments: If you’re conducting scientific experiments, you may need to collect numerical measurements such as reaction times, concentrations, or distances traveled.
  • Survey Data: When conducting surveys or questionnaires, you may collect numerical ratings or responses on scales.
  • Financial Data: Financial analysts often work with numerical data such as stock prices, sales figures, or profit margins.
  • Demographic Data: If you’re studying demographics, you may collect data on age, income levels, or education levels.

Data Preparation

Before you can plot a histogram, it’s important to clean and prepare your data. This involves checking for missing values, removing outliers if necessary, and organizing the data into appropriate intervals or bins.

Plotting the Histogram

Once you have gathered and prepared your data, it’s time to create the histogram. You can use various software tools or programming languages like Python or R to generate histograms.

To create a histogram, you need to define the number of bins or intervals that will divide your data range. The choice of bin size can impact the interpretation of the histogram. Too few bins may oversimplify the distribution, while too many bins may obscure important patterns.

Interpreting the Histogram

To interpret a histogram effectively, pay attention to:

  • Shape: Is the distribution symmetric (bell-shaped), skewed to one side (positively or negatively), or bimodal (having two peaks)?
  • Center: Where is the central tendency of the data? Is it close to one end or more towards the middle?
  • Variability: How spread out is the data? Are there any noticeable gaps or clusters?
  • Tails: Are there any outliers in your dataset that fall outside of normal range?


Histograms are valuable tools for analyzing and visualizing data distributions. By understanding the type of data suitable for histograms and following the proper steps for data gathering, preparation, and interpretation, you can gain valuable insights into your dataset.

Remember to choose an appropriate bin size that captures the essential characteristics of your data. With practice, you’ll become proficient in using histograms to explore and understand various types of data.

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