Plotting Data

There are several ways to create a plot in excel.  Each method requires an x-y data set like the one shown here.  Although it is not required, it is useful to have titles at the top of the columns.  

To create a plot with this data of x-data (the independent variable) vs. x^2 (the dependent variable) it is easiest to first select the data range using the open plus cursor,, as shown below.  Note that the selection includes the titles of the columns, but excel assumes that the 1st row in a plot selection is title information, not data to be plotted.

Next, the excel Chart Wizard will be used to create a plot from the selected data range.  Select the Insert menu option and choose Chart... as shown below. 

Alternatively, instead of using the Insert Chart... menu option, the Chart Wizard button, , on the button bar may be used.  Either of these methods will start the Chart Wizard.

Chart Wizard - Step 1 of 4

The Chart Wizard provides a series of 4 steps (in Dialog Boxes) which result in a nearly finished chart.  In the Dialog Box below notice that the chart type to be used is and XY-Scatter chart.  The Chart sub-type can be chosen from the thumbnail images.  The most commonly used sub-type for scientific plots is the first one shown for which only the data points are plotted. 

Chart Wizard - Step 2 of 4

The seconds step in the Chart Wizard is to select the data range, but since we selected the data range before starting the Chart Wizard, that is the range which will automatically appear in the Data Range input box, .

Chart Wizard - Step 3 of 4

The third step allows you to format the appearance of the chart.  Notice that the Tabs along the top of the Dialog Box allow you to alter the Titles, Axes, Gridlines, Legend or Data Labels.  You may alter any of these options here, or you can alter the chart after finishing Chart Wizard.  However, it is easier at this point to enter the X-axis and Y-axis Labels.  

Chart Wizard - Step 4 of 4

The fourth step in creating the chart allows you to choose where the chart will be created.  It can be created either as a single sheet, or as an object within the same sheet as the data. 

"As object in" the present sheet is the default and selecting Finish will result in a plot as shown below.


Formatting the plot

Every plot you make should be properly labeled and scaled.  Make sure that the axis labels are correct and include units.  For example, if are plotting temperature vs. time measurements then labels such as "Temp. (oC)" and "Time (sec)" might be appropriate.  Be sure that the 

To change the text of the titles you may simply left-click on the title and type in the changes.  The appearance of the chart can be altered easily by right-clicking on the chart area you want to change.  Right clicking within excel usually brings up a menu with options pertinent to the object you have chosen.  For example, if you right-click on the gray background in the plot the menu shown below pops up and you may want to select Chart Options... and turn on the vertical gridlines.  In the Format Plot Area... menu option you may choose a white background instead of white for a better looking printout if you are planning to print a paper version of the plot. 


If you right-click on an axis (the vertical axis here for example), you may change the types or thickness of the lines displayed, alter the Scale of the axis, select the Font type for the numbers on the axis, and change various other attributes of the chart.

Selecting the Scale tab (below) shows that by default the axis limits are automatically determined by Excel since the Auto-boxes are checked.  If you type in a value in place of the automatically determined axis limit, the Auto-check will be overridden.  In the Format Axis dialog boxes below, the automatically determined value of 35 has been changed to 50 and the Maximum check box has been un-checked.