8. Dealing with Qualitative Information


Qualitative information can be hard to visualise but here, I show a number of ways to do this using Harvey Balls and matrices.

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  1. Lesson Goal (00:06)

    The goal of this lesson is to learn how to visualize qualitative information in PowerPoint.

  2. Using Scales to Visualize Information (00:14)

    Qualitative information can be difficult to visualize, unless we are visualizing a clear framework of some sort. Qualitative information often occurs when we want to understand characteristics of a product like quality or safety, which cannot be easily quantified. To visualize these characteristics, we generally create a scale (for example 1 to 5 or 1 to 10) then visualize the values of this scale using various different methods.

  3. Harvey Balls (01:14)

    The most common method of visualizing data on a scale is using Harvey balls. These consist of a circle with a number of quadrants from zero to four shaded. As a result, Harvey balls can be used to visualize data on a 5-point scale. We can use a series of Harvey balls to compare a series of products over a series of characteristics in a simple table.

    In PowerPoint, there are two ways of creating Harvey balls. The first is to download a series of images, and insert them into your slides. The second is to insert the Harvey balls as a symbol. To do this, we select Symbol from the Insert tab. We select MS Gothic as the font, and geometric shapes as the subset. This allows us to insert any of the Harvey ball symbols. It’s best to insert them in a large font.

  4. Using a Matrix (02:38)

    An alternative method of visualizing qualitative data on a scale is using a matrix. A matrix can be used to compare data using up to three dimensions. It consists of a series of circles placed on a chart area. The x-axis position, y-axis position, and size of the circle can all be used to convey information.

    We can add a matrix in PowerPoint by adding a rectangle as the matrix area, then adding x-axis and y-axis lines. We then add the circles in the appropriate locations, and ensure that the matrix includes a legend.


In the previous lesson, we visualized quantitative data to lend credence to our point of view articulated in the action title. But what happens if we don't have any hard quantitative data to show and we need to rely on qualitative information to make our point? In some cases, this is not a problem. For example, if our action title demands that we show a framework, such as levels of uncertainty or a process diagram, such as in this example, then it's pretty easy to create the required content on our slide that backs up our action title assertion.

However, things can get more difficult if we have qualitative information that we want to visualize in some fashion. This problem often occurs when we want to summarize multiple characteristics of a product or process, such as quality or safety or even likelihood of success. These are not hard numerical values but they often need to be compared or benchmarked in some way. To do this, we use our qualitative information to create a scale, say from one to five and then visualize this scale using a number of different options. Perhaps the most common of these options are Harvey balls, invented by Harvey Poppel in the 1970s. Harvey balls represent five states with each state varying by a quadrant. Let's see the Harvey balls in action using an example. Here I have three competing pharmaceutical products and five characteristics that I want to use when comparing each of them. Ease of use, cost effectiveness, level of efficacy, and lack of side effects. Off camera, I'll add Harvey balls and a legend to visually compare these three products. When trying to visualize this data, Harvey balls are a better alternative to text, helping you quickly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the product. To create a Harvey ball, you have two options. The first option is to download a set of images and insert them on your slide. I'll provide a link in the show notes to help you do this. The second option is to insert a Harvey ball as a symbol. To do this, first, create a text box with a large font size, say 40.

Next, go to Insert Symbol, select MS Gothic from the first dropdown and geometric shapes from the second dropdown.

Here all the Harvey balls appear as options, which you can insert onto your slide.

An alternative to Harvey balls favored among consultants is to use a matrix. This is useful when comparing alternatives along two or three dimensions. The x-axis, y-axis and the size of the ball can all be used.

The easiest way to create a matrix is to draw a rectangle, with a set of vertical and horizontal lines.

Next, add your axes, which I'll do off camera, and finally, position the circles on your chart, making sure to include a legend as well.

While there are other options for visualizing qualitative data, I find the Harvey balls and a matrix the tools I use by far the most often. Keep them in mind the next time you need to visualize qualitative data.

PowerPoint Essentials
Creating Business Presentations


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