My data are differences of two values. I try to show the data with points (two per "x-axis-value") and their mean as bars. See here: means as barplots

I feel that bars could be misleading insofar as they imply a continuous range of values and not just the mean. On the other hand, bars are much more noticeable for comparative purposes.

Secondly, here is a plot with means shown as horizontal "lines". They are likely more appropriate for showing a mean but I find it hard to compare the means and place the indivdual points with respect to the means by eye.

Here is the second plot:

means as "lines"

If I would use the first plot in a thesis, do you think this will be found faulty, so to say?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you have just 2 points in each case? If so, the mean is not adding much information. You could consider omitting it entirely. $\endgroup$
    – mkt
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 10:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The vertical lines connecting the points (for each X-axis value) are also a bit redundant, especially the bit connecting them to the X-axis when both values are >0 $\endgroup$
    – mkt
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to mkt's point, in some cases (green bar) the line extends to zero but probably there are not points there? $\endgroup$
    – usεr11852
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 10:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Two points and optionally a short line showing the mean seem reasonable. I wouldn't extend the line to zero as seems to arise in two or three cases. On a different level, we can't speak for people reading your thesis, just for ourselves. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know what these data are really, but imagine that whether the mean is positive or negative could be of interest. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


I came up with a revision:

1.) The lines connecting the points are now substituted by a background color (pairs of colors here are just options), (points are now bars)

2.) mean is left out

enter image description here


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