CB 399: Graphic Communication & Visualizing Your Data Using R Spring 2016

Graphic Communication & Visualizing Your Data Using R 

Course Director: Dr. Yan Liu 

Curriculum Fellow: Dr. Ted Feldman, Theodore_Feldman@hms.harvard.edu

TAs: Yaguang Wei, Yingrui Yang (graduate students from Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)

Course Format: 6-hour nanocourse with lectures, hands-on practical sessions, and group discussions 

Course Objectives: 

Data visualization provides a means of revealing the information from data and may help engage more diverse audiences in the process of analytical thinking. Good graphical methods can assist researchers in expanding their ability to dynamically visualize their findings. The goal of this nanocourse is for you to improve your data visualization skills in terms of both conceptual graphical principles and practical skills. After the course, participants will be able to: 

  • have a basic understanding of graphic attributes (e.g., angle/slope, color, area) to maximize the accuracy of readers’ graphic perception;

  • understand the basic principles for making impactful graphics;

  • distinguish junk graphics from good ones;

  • make basic graphics using ggplot, an R package;

  • create web-based interactive graphics using Shiny, an R package.


Day 1 (No registration required) – 2 hours 

Date: 10am -12pm, Tuesday, May 31st , 2016
Location: TMEC 227 

Optional R tutorial 

Date: 9:30am -10am, Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 

Download R & RStudio and Introduce basic R codes 


Introducing graphic attributes and graphic principles (part I) 

  1. Graphic perception

  2. Graphic attributes (e.g., area, color, angle) and applying these attributes to maximize the accuracy of our graphic perception.

  3. The basic principles of making good graphics (part I)

  4. Hands-on exercise on static graphics using ggplot R packages


Day 2 (No registration required) – 2 hours 

Date: 10am -12pm & 12:15-1:15pm, Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 

Location: TMEC 209

Introducing graphic principles (part II) and interactive graphics (10am-12pm) 

  1. The basic principles of making good graphics (part II)

  2. Discussion of graphic examples

  3. Introduction of web-based interactive graphics

  4. Hands-on exercise on interactive graphics using Shiny R packages

  5. Answers to hands-on exercise from Day-1


 Office hours with instructors (Gordon Hall Room 316, 12:15-1:15pm): 

Discuss your project proposal; required for all registered students


Day 3 (registration required) – 2 hours 

Date: 10am -12pm, Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
Location: TMEC 209


Having discussions on junk and good graphics; 

Presenting your projects 

  1. Answers to hands-on exercise from Day-2

  2. Project presentations (see the description in the Assignment section) and feedback from peers and instructors


Prerequisite: Knowing the most basic R function (e.g., importing data, reading variables); 

If you are unfamiliar with basic R functions, you can prepare yourself for the hands-on exercises by: 

  1. Taking an online tutorial, for example, https://www.datacamp.com/courses/free-introduction-to-r,or

  2. coming to our optional R tutorial on May 31st , 2016 from 9:30-10am 

Registration: Only graduate students are eligible to register this course. Please talk to the instructors if you are not a graduate student, but you want to audit the whole course. 


Group project: 

  1. Discuss your proposal with instructors on Day-2;

  2. Project proposal (1-2 page paper, due 2pm June 5th);

  3. Project presentation in Day-3 (5-10 minutes PowerPoint, due 6pm June 7th

Submission: Submit your word/PDF document to instructors via Google Docs 

Things need to include in your project proposal and the PowerPoint of your final presentation: 

  1. Introduction (e.g., the rationale/significance of your study and who is your audience)

  2. What question(s) does your graph intend to answer? (i.e., Research questions/study purpose)

  3. How well does this graph answer the question(s)?

  4. What are the strength and weakness of your graph?

  5. Can you suggest any improvements? 

Required Materials and Equipment: Download R and R studio, download course materials for the hands on exercises, and bring a personal laptop.

R download from https://cran.r-project.org/

RStudio download from https://www.rstudio.com/products/rstudio/download/


DROP DEADLINE: Tuesday, May 24, 2016