# What is a Scatter Diagram (Correlation Chart)?

July 25, 2020

A scatter diagram is one of the seven basic tools of quality, but many professionals find it to be a difficult concept.

Other charts use lines or bars to show data, while a scatter diagram uses dots. This may be confusing, but it is often easier to understand than lines and bars.

In this blog post, I will explain the scatter diagram.

### Scatter Diagram

A scatter plot, scatter graph, and correlation chart are other names for a scatter diagram.

We draw this graph with two variables. The first variable is independent and the second variable depends on the first.

This diagram is used to find the correlation between these two variables, how they are related. After determining the correlation, you can then predict the behavior of the dependent variable based on the measure of the independent variable.

A scatter chart is useful when one variable is measurable and the other is not.

According to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, a scatter diagram is, “a graph that shows the relationship between two variables. Scatter diagrams can show a relationship between any element of a process, environment, or activity on one axis and a quality defect on the other axis.”

#### Example

You are analyzing accident patterns on a highway. You select the two variables, motor speed and the number of accidents, and draw the diagram.

Once the diagram is complete, you notice that as the speed of vehicles increases, the number of accidents goes up. This shows the relationship between the two.

Since this diagram shows you the correlation between the variables, many experts call it a correlation chart.

In most cases, the independent variable is plotted along the horizontal axis (x-axis) and the dependent variable is plotted on the vertical axis (y-axis). The independent variable is the control parameter because it influences the behavior of the dependent variable.

It is not necessary to have a controlling parameter to draw a scatter diagram. It can have two independent variables. In that case, you can use any axis for any variable.

I have seen many professionals think that a scatter diagram is like a fishbone diagram because the fatter has two parameters: cause and effect.

Please note that these two diagrams are different. The fishbone diagram shows you the effect of a cause, but it does not show the relationship between these two. The scatter diagram helps you analyze the relationship between the two variables.

However, the Ishikawa diagram can help you draw the scatter diagram; for example, you can find the two variables (cause and effect), and then draw the scatter diagram to analyze the relationship between them.

### Types of Scatter Diagram

You can classify scatter diagrams in many ways; I will discuss the two most popular based on correlation and slope of the trend. They cover almost all types of scatter diagrams used in project management.

According to the correlation, you can divide scatter diagrams into the following categories:

• Scatter Diagram with No Correlation
• Scatter Diagram with Moderate Correlation
• Scatter Diagram with Strong Correlation

#### Scatter Diagram with No Correlation

This diagram is also known as “Scatter Diagram with Zero Degree of Correlation”.

Here, the data point spread is so random that you cannot draw a line through them.

Therefore, you can say that these variables have no correlation.

#### Scatter Diagram with Moderate Correlation

This diagram is also known as “Scatter Diagram with a Low Degree of Correlation”.

Here, the data points are a little closer and you can see that some kind of relationship exists between these variables.

#### Scatter Diagram with Strong Correlation

This diagram is also known as “Scatter Diagram with a High Degree of Correlation”.

In this diagram, data points are close to each other and you can draw a line by following their pattern.

In this case, you say that these variables are closely related.

As discussed earlier, you can categorize the scatter diagram according to the slope, or trend, of the data points:

• Scatter Diagram with Strong Positive Correlation
• Scatter Diagram with Weak Positive Correlation
• Scatter Diagram with Strong Negative Correlation
• Scatter Diagram with Weak Negative Correlation
• Scatter Diagram with Weakest (or no) Correlation

A strong positive correlation means a visible upward trend from left to right; a strong negative correlation means a visible downward trend from left to right. A weak correlation means the trend is less clear. A flat line, from left to right, is the weakest correlation, as it is neither positive nor negative. A scatter diagram with no correlation shows that the independent variable does not affect the dependent variable.

#### Scatter Diagram with Strong Positive Correlation

This diagram is also known as a Scatter Diagram with Positive Slant.

In a positive slant, the correlation is positive, i.e. as the value of X increases, the value of Y will increase. You can say that the slope of a straight line drawn along the data points will go up. The pattern resembles a straight line.

For example, if the weather gets hotter, cold drink sales will go up.

#### Scatter Diagram with Weak Positive Correlation

As the value of X increases, the value of Y also increases, but the pattern does not resemble a straight line.

#### Scatter Diagram with Strong Negative Correlation

This diagram is also known as a Scatter Diagram with a Negative Slant.

In the negative slant, the correlation is negative, i.e. as the value of X increases, the value of Y will decrease. The slope of a straight line drawn along the data points will go down.

For example, if the temperature goes up, sales of winter coats go down.

#### Scatter Diagram with Weak Negative Correlation

As the value of X increases, the value of Y will decrease, but the pattern is not clear.

#### Scatter Diagram with No Correlation

There isn’t any relationship between the two variables to be seen. It might just be a series of points with no visible trend, or it might be a straight, flat row of points. In either case, the independent variable has no effect on the second variable; it is not dependent.

### Limitations of a Scatter Diagram

The following are a few limitations of a scatter diagram:

• Scatter diagrams cannot give you the exact extent of correlation.
• A scatter diagram does not show you the quantitative measurement of the relationship between the variables. It only shows the quantitative expression of quantitative change.
• This chart does not show you the relationship for more than two variables.

### Benefits of a Scatter Diagram

The following are a few advantages of a scatter diagram:

• It shows the relationship between two variables.
• It is the best method to show you a non-linear pattern.
• The range of data flow, i.e. maximum and minimum value, can be determined.
• Observation and reading are straightforward.
• Plotting the diagram is easy.

### Summary

Scatter diagrams are useful to determine the relationship between two variables. This relationship can be between two causes, or a cause and an effect, etc. It can be positive, negative or no relationship at all. The first variable is independent, and the second variable depends on the first. To analyze the pattern of the relationship, you change the independent variable and monitor the changes in the dependent variable. A scatter diagram can have two independent variables.

Further reading: What is a Scatter Diagram?

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• Yves B says:

The explanation is helpful, thank you !!

You are welcome Ali.

• Jomy says:

A scatter diagram can have two independent variables (as per the summary mentioned above) – How that is possible? It should have one independent variable & one dependent variable know?

In some cases, a scatter diagram can have two independent variables.

• Rahul says:

This helps me a lot
I am a Geography student and those examples and that limitations and benefits helps me a lot, thanks…

You are welcome Rahul.

• Swarasa says:

Good morning.. Plz say in which book you taken this for reference. I need urgent to claim answer for competitive exams

PMP reference books and internet search.

• Imran says:

To much helpful artical and in a very esay language tha would b understandable.

• Stephen Farrugia says:

Well done. Clear and concise with everything needed for a beginner to understand the Scatter Diagram.

Thank you Stephen for your comment.

• Brian Njihia says:

Thanks for this information; very clear and precise.

Thanks Brian for your comment and visit.

• Khalilullah Wardak says:

You are welcome Khalilullah.

You are welcome Junaid.

• Rahul says:

Easy to understand

Thanks Rahul.

• Dale Holdstock says:

Excellent.
A bit off the topic… I’ve been wondering if there are many opportunities as a project manager , for someone who has been in steel fabrication and welding as their base career? Sorry. I hope this makes sense. Thanks

• Senumi says:

Thank u so much helped a lot

You are welcome Senumi.

• RANDIV KUMAR says:

NICE SIR IT IS GREAT ….PLZ SHOW ONE EXAMPLE WITH DATA

Hello Randiv, when I will update the post, I will try to add some chart with data.

• goku says:

what is correlation chart

It is another name of scatter diagram.

• Pramod Kumar says:

Nice Artical

Thanks Pramod.

• Almesh says:

Nice and helped topic for PM aspirants and I would also like to add up few more lines.

A scattered diagram is a correlation and they may be positive or negative and are represented by a regression line and are generally used when QC finds variable and that might not be in control and systematic and changing in one another variable.

Independent variable is plotted along the horizontal line axis whereas dependent variable is plotted along the vertical axis.

Thanks & Best Regards

https://tiemchart.com/

Thanks Almesh for sharing your thoughts.

• humna says:

could u pls ……post some solved question related to scatter diagram?

Hello Humna, this time I am too busy with other activities, so cannot fulfil your request. I suggest you refer any good PMP exam reference book to find questions on this article.

• humna says:

very informative ….thank u so much

You are welcome Humna.

• jordan bagera says:

good work

Thanks Joran.

• Saranya says:

Why 2 points lie one on top of other?

A scatter diagram consists of hundreds of diagram, some of them may be at the top of others. You have to see the pattern.

The scatter diagram graphs pairs of numerical data, with one variable on each axis, to look for a relationship between them. If the variables are correlated, the points will fall along a line or curve. The better the correlation, the tighter the points will hug the line.

• Hermenegildo Lemos says:

Thank you it was usefull for me .

You are welcome Hermenegildo.

• Arshley Mun Van says:

Thank you’re the best ?

• Zafar Iqbal says:

Thanks really good explanation.
May you please explain “Decision tree”?

Thanks again

Sure, soon I will write a blog post on it.

Risk Assessment: Here you assess the current risks if they are still valid or can be closed if outdated.

Risk Audit: It deals with effectiveness of risk responses as well as the effectiveness of the risk management process.

• muhsin al-kazy says:

Hi

please could you explain what are diffrents between risk audit and risk assessment in control risk .

Thank you

• mike says:

thank you very much. so usefull

You are welcome Mike.

• Ritika says:

Thanks once again!!!

You are welcome Ritika.

• Bilshan says:

I’ve really enjoyed the explanation you made above. Thank you

You are welcome Bilshan.

• Trapti says:

I didnt understand the exact diff b/w two types of scatter diagrams: type of correlation ans slope of trend coz both the types are showing the same thing. Pls throw some light on my confusion.

Notice the spread of dots. It shows how closely they are related.

Very nice article sir

• Raj says:

Very good article and very clear explanation. Really appreciate the effort.

Thanks Raj.

• Sp says:

Asalaam-o-alaikum !

The way you explain every topic is marvelous. Thank you.

Could you please explain Resource optimization techniques and Influence diagram.

Okay.

I have noted it, and soon you will see a post on this topic.

• Vijay says:

Thanks for the good article.
pls note that there’s one typo, it should be “dependent” variable is plotted on the vertical axis (y-axis).

“Usually independent variable is plotted along the horizontal axis (x-axis) and independent variable is plotted on the vertical axis (y-axis) “

Error is corrected.

• Bijoy Ghosh says:

Good article. Thanks a lot.

You are welcome Bijoy.

• muhsin al-kazy says:

thank you.. Really i am understood very well .Mnay thanks for you.

You are welcome Muhsin.

• Mark says:

The first variable is independent and the second is dependent in the first variable

Correct.

• sundarishanmugam says:

thank you so much.Super

You are welcome Sundarishanmugam.

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