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Visualization Environments

Show and Tell

Problems and Solutions

Pyramid Exercise


Visualisation in the Social Sciences Workshop

Show and Tell

Debbie Crisp

The Research Problem

I am currently working on a project which involves designing a website. The Domestic Violence Data Source (dvds) is a data co-ordinating system, which will provide up-to-date information about domestic violence in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. It will collect, collate and monitor data on all projects relating to domestic violence within its target region, complementing and supplementing existing initiatives. It aims to build on good practice, look to assess unmet needs, and help to inform innovative future work by researchers and practitioners in the field. It will also provide information for those who either are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence.

I am undertaking a data collection exercise (a sort of huge literature review) and simultaneously trying to develop the site (see Figures 3 and 4 below). I need a mechanism that allows me to design organically as I am unsure how much information I will eventually have, or - until I know what data are available - exactly which subjects the dvds will cover. At the same time, the design process needs to be fairly structured, so that I do not have to continually re-code information as the site grows. I also need to be able to draw the relevant links between pages.

It is also important that I don't inadvertently prioritise particular subjects or the needs of any one group of users: all bits of information need to be readily available. They also need to be accessible from more than one direction (one user may want to see the overlap between the use of health services and involvement in the criminal justice process; another might wish to look at the overlap between involvement in the criminal justice process and the use of health services……….). Using numbers or the alphabet could seem to do impose a hierarchy on the data on the site (the assumption would be that page A was more important than page Z etc). Further, new subjects may fall between existing categories, so that all the data eventually clustered around particular numbers. For example: if 'housing' is coded '2' and 'benefits' are coded as '3' , housing benefit might become 2.5, housing benefit for accommodation in a refuge 2.51 etc etc etc. Such a framework would not aid clarity of thought, and would lead to a muddled site.

The Solution

I have decided to use the sets of symbols available in my word processing package - which include for example '*', , '' and ''. Each symbol is allocated to a particular subject (see Figure 5 below). For example:


These could be combined in any number of ways but would always be equivalent (see Figure 1 for the ways in which symbols may inter-relate):

They would all be looking at the psychological impact of repeated physical abuse over a number of years. It is harder to think of them as the same if numbers are used instead:
12345             52134            31245              13254             41523
These symbols can be mixed in with numbers and letters and still create a non-hierarchical coding frame (because it is gibberish if you try to read it in any other way than as codes):

It is also very easy to work out which other sets of pages need to be linked to any new data: '*' links to any other '*' pages, '' to any other '' etc.

It is of course important to keep track of the symbols used, and to make sure that duplications are avoided (see Figure 2)

Tools used

I used Microsoft Word to design the coding frame. The idea came from playing patience with a pack of cards: in patience you start with cards in a completely random order, and then end up with four neat piles. With a website, you have to have your data in neat order, but it will be accessed in completely different ways by different users.


Figures 1 - 3 are available as a Microsoft Word or RTF document

The dvds website will be divided into the following spaces, all of which interlink:

Key Facts and Figures - a summary of current issues and existing material information on domestic violence

Research Data Source - information about and reviews of ongoing and recent work, this space would also include a research 'wishlist', and a selection of useful research tools

Information for Practitioners - information for those working in the field including practice guidelines

Seeking Help - advice and information aimed at those who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence, and concerned others

References and Publications - a comprehensive and detailed bibliography, including unpublished work, legislation etc

Address Book - contact points for data appearing elsewhere on the dvds, details of existing networks and multi-agency fora, links to other relevant web-sites

Notice Board - including news about relevant conferences, events, campaigns and jobs

Contact Details

Debbie Crisp
Brunel University

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