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Graph Description essay

What is graph description writing and why is it important?

Graph description is related to the section of findings, where researchers often present their data in graphs, or tables, or charts and provide a description to highlight the major trends. Graph description is a basic and important skill in academic writing.
Steps in writing a graph description Structure of graph description
1. Read the title and labels on the graph as well as the instructions.
  - Note down 2-3 synonyms for key words/phrases
  - Write down introductory sentence, trying not to copy phrases
2. Analyse the information in the graph, looking at the overall trend(s).
  - Write the rest of your introduction, explaining the main trend(s)
3. Plan your body paragraphs (one paragraph for each trend)
  - Draft a topic sentence for each paragraph
4. Choose the most important details that will support your statement(s) or main trend(s).
  - Write the rest of the main body paragraphs
  - Remember to include key figures from the data
5. Think about how to restate the main trend(s) in the graph using different words.
  - Write the conclusion, paraphrasing the main trend(s)
6. Proofread your description.
  - Grammar: accuracy of noun phrases and verb phrases, correct verb tenses and prepositions
  - Organisation/coherence: linking words and variety of phrases/conjunctions
  - Content: is the information accurate and detailed enough? Do the details support the topic sentences?
Introduction paragraph The introduction consists of two parts:
(1) an opening sentence explaining what the graph is about
(2) one or two sentences describing the overall trend
Body paragraph 1 First main fact and supporting details relating to overall trend
Body paragraph 2 Second main fact and supporting details relating to overall trend
Concluding paragraph A brief summary of the most important information you perceive from the data

Note: the number of body paragraphs depends on the number of main ideas/major trend in the graph.
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Language for writing a graph description Describing changes in trends Tenses in describing graphs
Useful expressions for describing graphs

Starting the essay
  • This graph shows/describes/summarizes/presents/compares/contrasts/illustrates/is about …
Describing the general trend (usually the second sentence in the introduction paragraph)
  • Overall/in general, there is an upward trend in...
  • The major trend in this graph is …
  • There are two major trends.
Expressing time
  • since 1999
  • for nearly/just over/more than ten years
  • between 1994 and 1997
  • during the period 1994 to 1997
  • by the year 2050
  • in the meantime
Describing data
  • There was a (significant/great/moderate…) increase in …
  • The number of tertiary students increased dramatically.
  • The sales reached a peak in June.
  • There was a (steep/dramatic/moderate…) drop in ...
  • It remains stable/ constant.
  • The amount/number/figure stood/stayed at 12,000.
  • The percentage stood/stayed at 30%.
  • The difference between the two groups of data is significant.
  • Water use has increased by 35 times in the past 30 years.
  • The prices are three times higher than they were a year ago.
  • Young people from broken families were 2.5 times more likely to consider suicide.
  • In 1993, 60% of people in that city had bicycles, compared with 10% in 1970.
  • The percentage of the elderly population has risen from 30% to 60% in the past 30 years.
  • The figure for the young population fell from 60% to 30% between 1990 and 2010.
  • Over the last 300 hundred years, world population has increased sevenfold.
  • In 2000, only 19% of the population was elderly people.
  • Young people made up 65% of the total population in 2000.
  • Older people accounted for 19% of the population in 2000.
  • The elderly group will increase from 19% in 2000 to 36% in 2050.
  • The elderly population will increase by three times by 2050.
  • This percentage is projected to decrease to 19% by 2050.
Some graphs are static, i.e. they show data at one point in time. Many graphs, however, illustrate changes in trends over several periods. Trends are tendencies, or movements in a particular direction. Describing these accurately requires specialized vocabulary. In order to write well and achieve a high mark for a graph description task, you need to use a variety of vocabulary items and not simply repeat the same nouns or verbs such as ‘increase’ or ‘decrease’.

Direction of trend Verb Noun
(going up) increased (to)
rose (to)
went up (to)
climbed (to)
an increase
a rise
a growth
a growth/an upward trend
(going down) decreased (to)
fell (to)
declined (to)
dipped (to)
dropped (to)
reduced (to)
went down (to)
a decrease
a fall
a decline
a dip
a drop
a reduction
(staying the same) did not change
remained steady (at)
remained stable (at)
maintained the same level
stayed constant (at)
no change
no variation
fixed/stable situation
constant state
evening/leveling out

Concluding the essay
  • In conclusion/in summary, there is a correlation between the two graphs.
  • To conclude/to sum up/ to summarize, …
  • What conclusion can be drawn from all the above is …
  • All the evidence supports/confirms/points out a conclusion that …
To decide which tense(s) to use for describing a graph, you need to find out whether there is a time element to the graph. Is it the past, the present or the future? Don’t forget to look at the title of the graph to see what time it relates to. If no time is given, you can presume that the data are current (see the graph in Task 1).

The general rule is:

  • if the graph deals with data in the present, or if there is no indication of time in the graph, use the simple present;
  • if the data are about the past, then use the simple past;
  • if the data are a prediction in the future, then use the simple future;
  • if there is a connection between the past and the present, then use the present perfect.
  • if there is a connection between two actions both happening in the past, with one before the other, then use the past perfect.

However, we always use the present tense for the first sentence in the introduction to define the chart/graph.
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Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4 Rating Form
Task 1: Thesis Statements

Match the word/phrase with the trend.

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