What Are Pie Charts Used For?

Society 4 Mins Read Ankita Tripathy 29 Sep 2023

Be it in a business presentation or a scientific research paper, charts constitute a significant part of data visualization. Among a myriad of chart types, pie charts, with their circular charm, can convey the most complex information in an easily comprehensible and visually pleasing manner.

But what exactly are pie charts, and what can they be used for? In this article, we will dive deep into the world of pie charts, understanding their utility, importance, and some practical cases where pie charts can be effectively used.

The Concept of Pie Charts


A pie chart, as the name suggests, is a type of chart that looks like a pie sliced into various sectors, each representing a proportion of the whole. The size of each sector, visually noticeable by the angle and area, signifies the numerical quantity it stands for.

This circular statistical graphical representation presents data in an intuitive and straightforward manner, often used in scenarios where the total of the components is significant.

Accurately reading a pie chart requires an understanding that the complete pie represents the total data set, and each slice demonstrates a particular category within that data set. It is an excellent tool to exemplify proportions, demonstrating the relationship of parts to the whole, thereby providing at-a-glance comparisons between categories.

Despite its easy-to-understand layout, even the simplest pie charts should not be taken lightly. The comprehension of the pie chart goes beyond knowing what each colored slice represents; it involves analyzing, comparing, and interpreting the data, which requires careful observation and critical thinking.

Rationale for Using Pie Charts

Utilizing pie charts for data representation is beneficial for multiple reasons. First and foremost, they are significant for presenting a visual overview of the data. With distinct color-coded sectors, pie charts present a comprehensive picture of the whole data set, helping in quicker data absorption and easier retention.

Because of their visual nature, pie charts tend to be more accessible to a broader audience, even those with no solid statistical or numerical background. They are ideal for simplifying complex data, allowing readers to see the data in a more understandable and relatable form, aiding in better decision-making and strategy planning.

Furthermore, pie charts convey a sense of totality. This feature is instrumental in scenarios where understanding the portion of each category in relation to the whole becomes vital, such as analyzing sales data, market share, or resource allocation. Notably, it delivers the point rapidly without the need for extensive verbal explanation.

Applicability of Pie Charts

Pie charts have a wide array of applications across different domains. In the world of business, they are used for financial analysis, sales reports, market segmentation, and much more. Herein, pie charts are a valuable tool for showcasing proportions, such as individual products contributing to total sales or different sectors contributing to the total market share.

In academics and research, pie charts are used to portray demographic data, educational statistics, or survey results. A pie chart can highlight the proportion of students in each grade, the allocation of funding in different areas of research, or the percentage of people favoring a particular opinion, making it easier to visualize and interpret the data.

Public administration and social studies also find pie charts useful in depicting tax allocation, the proportion of the population in various age brackets, or crime statistics. These charts can be effectively used in newspapers, presentations, reports, and other public documents to successfully reach diverse audiences.

Pie Charts Vs. Other Charts

While pie charts are highly efficient in displaying proportions and percentages, they may not be the best choice for all situations. It is essential to understand the strengths and weaknesses of pie charts in comparison to other charts, such as bar graphs, line charts, or column charts.

Pie charts have an edge when it comes to depicting relative proportions or percentages of multiple categories. However, when it comes to comparing individual categories, bar graphs, and column charts could prove to be more effective. These charts provide a length-based representation, making it easier to compare categories directly without engaging in angular or area-based assessment.

Line charts, on the other hand, excel in showing a trend over time. If the data is a time series, showing shifts and trends in data points over a period, a line chart could be a more appropriate representation. Despite these comparisons, the ultimate selection of the chart type would depend on the specific needs and objectives of the data representation.

Whether you’re a business analyst sorting through big data or a researcher publishing a survey, understanding the usage, application, benefits, and limitations of pie charts can be a significant step in your data presentation journey. So, the next time you’re confronted with data, perhaps consider whether a pie chart might be the missing piece in your visualization puzzle.


Ankita Tripathy loves to write about food and the Hallyu Wave in particular. During her free time, she enjoys looking at the sky or reading books while sipping a cup of hot coffee. Her favourite niches are food, music, lifestyle, travel, and Korean Pop music and drama.

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