Presenting parasitological data: The good, the bad and the error bar

Sophie G. Zaloumis, Freya J I Fowkes, Alysha De Livera, Julie A. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review


Visual displays of data in the parasitology literature are often presented in a way which is not very informative regarding the distribution of the data. An example being simple barcharts with half an error bar on top to display the distribution of parasitaemia and biomarkers of host immunity. Such displays obfuscate the shape of the data distribution through displaying too few statistical measures to explain the spread of all the data and selecting statistical measures which are influenced by skewness and outliers. We describe more informative, yet simple, visual representations of the data distribution commonly used in statistics and provide guidance with regards to the display of estimates of population parameters (e.g. population mean) and measures of precision (e.g. 95% confidence interval) for statistical inference. In this article we focus on visual displays for numerical data and demonstrate such displays using an example dataset consisting of total IgG titres in response to three Plasmodium blood antigens measured in pregnant women and parasitaemia measurements from the same study. This tutorial aims to highlight the importance of displaying the data distribution appropriately and the role such displays have in selecting statistics to summarize its distribution and perform statistical inference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1351-1363
Number of pages13
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2015


  • descriptive analysis
  • display
  • graph
  • Parasitological data
  • statistical inference

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