Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Science

First Advisor

Stephanie M Gardner

Committee Member 1

Nancy Pelaez

Committee Member 2

Dennis J Minchella


Graphs are typically defined as visual representations that depict and sometimes summarize quantitative data. Visual representation of quantitative data is broadly used in scientific textbooks, papers, and lectures as well as popular media seen in everyday life. Thus, understanding graphs and data became an essential skill for all students to master. However, correctly and fully using graphs requires a person to have multiple competencies (diSessa & Sherin, 2000). For an instance, during graph construction, variables need to be identified and characterized, data are screened and often reduced, and a graph type needs to be chosen that is appropriate for the data. Student have difficulties interpreting and constructing scientific graphs (Beichner, 1994; Mevarech, & Karamarsky, 1997; Shaw, Padilla, & Mckenzie, 1983; Speth et al., 2010); in spite of using some of the documented difficulties to improve instruction, difficulties persist for undergraduate science students (Speth et al., 2010; McFarland, 2010). We aim to compare the differences in graph knowledge among undergraduate biology students, graduate biology students, and biology professors. Using the results, we hope to better understand and define the role that graph knowledge plays in students’ ability to choose and create appropriate graphs from data. This will be beneficial to instructors who teach analytical and graphical skills at school and to educators who design the curriculum with a purpose of effective teaching and learning.