Create and use a scatter plot

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Scatter plots are used to determine the strength of a relationship between two numeric variables. The x-axis represents the independent variable, and the y-axis represents the dependent variable.

Scatter plots can answer questions about your data such as, What is the relationship between two variables? How is the data distributed? Where are the outliers?

Examples

The examples below show scatter plots using two variables, three variables, and bins.

Two variables

A public works department has noticed an increase in leaks on water mains. The department wants to know how much of an effect the total length of pipes has on the number of leaks compared to the impact of properties of the pipes, such as age or circumference. A scatter plot can be used to plot the total number of leaks versus the total length of pipes in each zone.

Scatter plot of total length of pipes and total number of leaks

The public works department also wants to know whether there is any difference between pipes surveyed at different times of the year. Using the Color by option, the department can style the points using unique colors for every unique value in the specified field.

Scatter plot categorized by the month of the survey date

The scatter plot indicates that most of the pipe surveys occurred in April.

A scatter plot can use regression analysis to estimate the strength and direction of the relationship between dependent and independent variables. Statistical models are illustrated with a straight or curved line, depending on your selected chart statistic. The R2 value can be added to give a measure of the impact of the length of pipes on the number of leaks.

Scatter plot categorized by month and showing line of best fit

Add a third variable

A public works department has noticed an increase in leaks on water mains. The department wants to know how much of an effect the total length of pipes has on the number of leaks versus the impact of properties of the pipes, such as age or circumference. The department also wants to know whether there is a relationship between the number of leaks or length of pipes and the cost per day (including construction, maintenance and repairs, and lost resources through leaks). A scatter plot with proportional symbols can be used to plot the total number of leaks versus the total length of pipes in each zone, with the size of the points representing the cost per day.

Scatter plot with Cartesian coordinates showing the effect of pipe length on number of leaks

Tip:

Drag-N Drop Drag a number field to your page and drop it on your scatter plot to give your chart graduated symbols.

The public works department also wants to know whether there is any difference between pipes surveyed at different times of the year. Using the Color by option, you can style the points using unique colors for every unique value in the specified field.

Scatter plot showing Cartesian coordinates for pipe length and number of leaks, with cost shown by proportional symbols

The scatter plot indicates that most of the pipe surveys occurred in April.

Visualize with bins

A GIS analyst working for a consortium of colleges wants to find which states have high-value colleges. The analyst starts their analysis by creating a scatter plot showing the cost of colleges and the average earnings after graduation. The scatter plot shows a positive relationship, but the points are too densely distributed to see more specific patterns.

Scatter plot showing the cost and earnings after graduation for colleges in the United States

The analyst can change the style of the chart to Bins to see the distribution of the points on the scatter plot. The pattern shows that the highest concentration of colleges have a cost around $20,000 and result in earnings below $50,000.

Scatter plot showing the cost and earnings after graduation, styled with bins

Create a scatter plot

To create a scatter plot, complete the following steps:

  1. Select two number Number field or rate/ratio Rate/ratio field fields.
    Tip:

    You can search for fields using the search bar in the data pane.

  2. Create the scatter plot using the following steps:
    1. Drag the selected fields to a new card.
    2. Hover over the Chart drop zone.
    3. Drop the selected fields on Scatter Plot.
Tip:

You can also create charts using the Chart menu above the data pane or the Visualization type button Visualization type on an existing card. For the Chart menu, only charts that are compatible with your data selection will be enabled. For the Visualization type menu, only compatible visualizations (including maps, charts, or tables) will be displayed.

Scatter plots can also be created using View Scatter Plot, which is accessed by clicking the Action button Action under Find answers > How is it related.

Usage notes

The Layer options button Legend opens the Layer options pane. You can use the Layer options pane to view the legend, change the symbol type on the chart, and change the style of the chart.

The Legend tab Legend displays the symbols and values on your chart. To change the color associated with a value, click the symbol and choose a color from the palette or enter a hex value (available when a Color by variable is applied). The Pop out legend button Pop out legend displays the legend as a separate card on your page. The legend can be used to make selections on the chart.

The Options tab Options is used to change the Color by and Symbol type parameters. The Color by field is used to style the chart with unique values and must be a string field. The Symbol type parameter is used to switch the style of the chart between points and bins. If the Symbol type is Bins, the following additional configurations are available:

  • Set the size of the bins by adjusting the Resolution value. The default Resolution value is calculated for your dataset using Sturges' rule.
  • Specify the Transition value setting. If the number of point features in the chart extent is less than the transition value, the chart will display the point features. If the number of points in the chart extent is greater than or equal to the transition value, the chart will be styled with bins. The default Transition value is 2,000.
  • The Show pop-up parameter determines whether pop-ups are displayed when you hover over a bin, and what information is included in the pop-ups.

The Style tab Style is used to adjust the following symbol properties:

  • For points, you can change the symbol size, symbol color (single symbol only), outline thickness, outline color, and layer transparency.
  • For bins, you can change the color palette, bin outline thickness, bin outline color, and layer transparency.

You can add a line of best fit to the scatter plot using the Chart statistics button Chart statistics. The line of best fit can be Linear, Exponential, or Polynomial. The equation of the line of best fit and the R2 value will also be displayed on the chart.

StatisticDescription

Linear

Linear regression attempts to fit a straight line through a set of values so that the distances between the values and the fitted line are as small as possible. A positively sloped line (from lower left to upper right of the chart) indicates a positive linear relationship. Positive relationships mean that values increase together. A negatively sloped line indicates a negative linear relationship. A negative relationship means that one value decreases as another increases. Goodness of fit measures, such as R2, can be used to quantify the relationship. The closer to 1, the stronger the relationship is.

Exponential

This calculates an exponential (upward) curve of best fit to model a nonlinear relationship in your data (R2 for linear regression at 0 or close to 0).

Polynomial

This calculates a curve of best fit for a nonlinear relationship in your data (R2 for linear regression at 0 or close to 0). A second-degree polynomial equation is used for the calculation by default. You can change the equation to a third- or fourth-degree polynomial equation.

You can add a third number or rate/ratio variable to your scatter plot by selecting a field in the data pane and dragging it to the existing scatter plot card (not available on a scatter plot with bin symbols). The result will be a scatter plot with proportional symbols, where the size of the points represents the magnitude of the data from the third variable.

Use the Switch axes button Switch axis to switch the variables on the x- and y-axis.

Use the Visualization type button Visualization type to switch directly between a scatter plot and other visualizations, such as a KPI card or summary table.

Use the Flip card button Flip card to view the back of the card. The Card info tab Card info provides information about the data on the card and the Export data tab Export data allows users to export the data from the card.

Click the x- or y-axis to change the scale between Linear and Log.

Limitations

Binned scatter plots are not available for certain remote feature layers. If your remote feature layer does not support binned scatter plots, you can copy the layer to your workbook and create a binned scatter plot using the copy.

Export data is not available for binned scatter plots. You must set the Symbol type to Single symbol to enable exporting data from the back of a scatter plot.