discussion 753

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Case 12: Creating Appropriate Graphics To Accompany a Report


In the last year, three young drivers in your state have been killed in car accidents caused in part by the drivers’ use of cell phones. Two of the three were texting at the time of the crashes. The news of these three deaths has prompted Harold McInness, a member of the state legislature, to introduce legislation that would restrict cell-phone use while driving. Specifically, Rep. McInness wishes to ban texting by all drivers and to ban the use of handheld cell phones by all drivers who are not yet 21 years old.

You work as an assistant to the Insurance Commissioner of your state, Felicia Ortiz. The Insurance Commissioner has a number of responsibilities, including overseeing the insurance companies that operate in your state and advising the state legislature on legal matters related to the insurance industry. Ms. Ortiz has received a call from Representative McInness, requesting research assistance in support of his draft legislation.

“Representative McInness called me because the insurance industry has been very active in conducting research into all aspects of traffic safety,” Ms. Ortiz tells you. “I would like you to get some current data on how using cell phones while driving affects driving ability and relates to accident statistics. Representative McInness wants to be able to use these data in a report to the Transportation Subcommittee, which he chairs.”

You spend an afternoon on the web, searching for information. You find a lot of good information from federal government agencies, reputable polling organizations, and insurance researchers. You present this information to Ms. Ortiz (Document 12.1).

“Okay,” she tells you after she has had a chance to look at your draft. “Thanks very much for gathering these facts. Two things I want to point out right away. One, I think the top-10 list sends the wrong message. This is a serious subject, and we want to be sure to show that we take it very seriously. And two, you’ve got 11 facts here.”

“I understand,” you say. “I’ve got an extra one in case you want to drop one of them.”

“I want to make sure we’re giving Representative McInness the data he needs. It’s better to have good data than a lot of data. So you might want to pare this list down to facts that relate clearly and directly to the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. Second, I’d like to think about whether it would be easier to understand if some of the facts were communicated graphically rather than in words.”

Download the document below, and then begin your assignment.

imageDownload a copy of Document 12.1.

Your Assignment

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the case background and document, complete the assignment below. Your instructor will tell you how he or she would like you to submit your work.

1. Thoroughly revise and edit the list in Document 12.1. First, eliminate any facts that do not clearly relate to the specific topic. Second, arrange the items in a logical sequence by grouping them appropriately. After each item in your new list, write a paragraph on whether the item should be communicated in words or in one or more graphics. If you propose that an item be communicated in a graphic, indicate the type of graphic (such as a pie chart, table, or line graph), and justify your decision. Your final list should include at least seven items and recommend at least five types of graphics.

2. Present to the class the list of facts and formats you prepared for Assignment 1.

Reflecting on Your Work

Once you’ve completed your assignment, write a reflection about your work using the prompt below.

1. Describe how you considered your audience for these data—Representative McInness and the Transportation Subcommittee members who will read his report—as you revised its presentation. Did you think about their attitudes and expectations? Did you consider how Representative McInness might incorporate the data into his report and how the subcommittee will use the report? Explain at least three specific changes you made to your findings to make them more useful to the audience. If you think of additional ways to improve the data for the audience, list them as well.


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