MathBench > Visualization

Log Transformations


If your data differs by a couple orders of magnitude or more, then an ordinary graph will make your data look "squished", and you might want to think about a log-transformation. There are two ways you can do this.

  1. Take the log of each number, and then make a normal graph.
  2. Make a graph, and let the paper "take the log" of the number.


In either case your graph will have the same shape.

As an added bonus, IF your data represents an exponential growth or decay process, THEN log-transforming it will turn the graph into a straight line. (The slope of the line will even give you a hint as to the rate of the exponential growth or decay, although we didn't get into this.)

Semi-log paper is tricky to use at first. It is divided into "cycles," which are themselves divided into 10 pieces. The lines get closer together at the top of the cycle, because the numbers are arranged on a log scale. Each cycle starts at a multiple of ten, and its NOT possible to get to zero.




If you want a printer-friendly version of this module, you can find it here in a Microsoft Word document. This printer-friendly version should be used only to review, as it does not contain any of the interactive material, and only a skeletal version of problems solved in the module.