Comparing the Hard to Compare:  Uses of the 100% Bar Chart

Fast Facts:

April 27, 2021

By: Sherrie Hill and Kristen Overstreet

Standard bar charts are used by journal offices to relate key performance indicators, such as number of submissions, each decision type, number of assignments per editor, or number of reviews completed per year.  Typically used less often, is the standard bar chart’s cousin – the 100% bar chart.  When used correctly, the 100% bar chart can be a powerful tool for comparing quantities of unequal size. 

What do you do when you want to compare the data from an incomplete year to previous completed years, or when you want to compare completed years that have significantly unequal values?  Typically, we use a standard bar chart; but comparing unequal quantities is even trickier if a further breakdown of the data is needed, such as breaking down submissions per year by article type.  A stacked bar chart with segment percentages can be used, but the best choice for this type of comparison is the 100% bar chart. It can make the relative comparison so much easier to see.  Looking at the 100% bar chart below, it is easy to see that even though there are only 3 months’ data, the mix of articles coming in is fairly consistent with the types of submissions that the journal has received for the last three completed years.

100% bar charts are created by dividing the value for each of the bar’s segments by the total value for that bar, then converting it to a percentage and stacking the segments. The total percentage value for each bar equals 100%. These charts can easily be created using Origin Reports or other applications like Excel.


100% bar charts are also helpful for situations such as when a journal is strategically trying to maintain or adjust the number of manuscripts rejected at initial decision.  In the chart below, it is quickly apparent how the journal is performing when viewing the 100% chart for initial decisions.

We have been discussing using these charts for comparing incomplete years to complete years, but the 100% bar chart is also useful in comparing other unequal quantities. If the journal office wanted to know the number of submissions by article type and by continent, for example, the 100% bar chart would be the best tool to visually represent the comparison. (See charts below showing the comparisons using the standard bar chart and the 100% bar chart.)

The next time you are comparing the hard to compare, try using a 100% bar chart to see if the trends in the data become more apparent.


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