- Use reading strategies to glean information from visual aids
What is a Visual Aid?
A visual aid is an image or graphic used to display information. Visual aids can be found in just about every kind of print and electronic media; they can appear within the body of the text, in boxes or sidebars, or in appendices. They often convey information that is supported by the surrounding text, but sometimes they present novel information.
Reading Visual Aids
When reading, it’s a good idea to pause and examine any visual aids you see. Common types include:
Tables: Tables are text-based graphics that display information using words and numbers arranged in columns and rows.
Graphs: Graphs display information on a grid using an x/y axis. There are different types of graphs, such as line graphs and bar graphs.
Charts: Charts use shapes to convey information, such as percentages, timelines, or processes. There are different types of charts, such as pie charts and flow charts.
Diagrams: Diagrams are schematic drawings that show how something works, such as a physical structure, a process, or even a concept.
Pictures: There are different kinds of pictures that can be used as visual aids, such as political cartoons and drawings of people, places, things, and events.
Maps: Maps are used to describe a territory or identify a location. Look to the map legend for important information.
Photographs: Photographs are also used as visual aids to convey information about people, places, things, and events. The types and uses of photos can vary greatly because of the different types of devices used to take them, such as cameras, telescopes, microscopes, and even MRI machines.
The video below breaks down elements of tables, charts, and graphs. It shows how visual elements can be adjusted to give different impressions of the same information. Pay close attention to how the same information might be presented in different ways.
You can view the transcript for “Reading Data Tables & Graphs” here (download).