What is Data Distribution? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:00 What is Data Distribution?
  • 0:40 Dot Plots
  • 1:25 Histograms
  • 2:01 Box Plot
  • 3:12 Tally Charts
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mia Primas

Mia has taught math and science and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Teaching.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of a data distribution. We will look at examples and features of various types of data distributions. You can then take a brief quiz to see what you learned.

What Is a Data Distribution?

Meet Mia. As a part of a college research course, she collected and organized information about students on campus. She was so proud of the amount of information she collected that Mia couldn't wait to share it with her professor! But first, she had to organize the data in a way that was useful and concise. To do this, Mia created a data distribution.

Data distributions are used often in statistics. They are graphical methods of organizing and displaying useful information. There are several types of data distributions. In this lesson, we will focus on dot plots, histograms, box plots, and tally charts.

Dot Plots

Dot plots show numerical values plotted on a scale. Each dot represents one value in the set of data. In the example below, the customer service ratings range from 0 to 9. The dots tell us the frequency, or rate of occurrence, of customers who gave each rating. If you look at the 5 rating, you can see that three customers gave that rating, and if you look at a score of 9, eight customers gave that rating. We can also see that ratings were provided by fifty customers, one dot for each customer.

Example of a dot plot

Now imagine that ratings were provided by five hundred customers. It would not be practical or useful to have a distribution of five hundred dots. For this reason, dot plots are used for data that have a relatively small number of values.


Histograms display data in ranges, with each bar representing a range of numeric values. The height of the bar tells you the frequency of values that fall within that range. In the example below, the first bar represents black cherry trees that are between 60 and 65 feet in height. The bar goes up to three, so there are three trees that are between 60 and 65 feet.

Example of a histogram

Histograms are an excellent way to display large amounts of data. If you have a set of data that includes thousands of values, you can simply adjust the frequency interval to accommodate a larger scale, rather than just 0-10.

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