The frequency of a value in a dataset is the number of times it appears. A frequency distribution is a way of organizing data by showing the number of times each value appears in the dataset. It can be either graphical or tabular. In other words, a frequency distribution shows the pattern of how often each value occurs in the dataset.
The interval size of a frequency distribution depends on the data being analyzed and the goals of the analyst. The intervals need to be mutually exclusive and exhaustive. Frequency distributions are generally used within a statistical context. Frequency distributions can usually be associated with the charting of a normal distribution.
There are four main types of frequency distributions:
- Ungrouped frequency distributions – They can be used for categorical variables.
- Grouped frequency distributions – This type of frequency distribution is used for quantitative variables.
- Relative frequency distributions – This can be used for any type of variable when one is more interested in comparing frequencies than the actual number of observations.
- Cumulative frequency distributions – This is used for ordinal or quantitative variables when the analyst wants to understand how often observations fall below certain values.
Frequency distributions can be graphed using bar charts, pie charts and histograms.
List of recommended resources #
For a broad overview #
This guide presents a detailed overview of the various concepts involved in frequency distributions in statistics.
This guide from LabWrite Resources provides step-by-step guidance on creating bar graphs, histograms, and frequency distribution using Excel.
This webpage from Statistics Canada, exhibits how one can construct four different types of frequency distribution tables.
For in depth understanding #
Ch.2 of this book by Lorena Madrigal delineates about frequency distributions and graphs and provides students and researchers an easy, step-by-step route through the statistical maze.
Case study #
This joint survey by the EBRD and the World Bank focuses exclusively on the main BEEPS questionnaires for 2008 and 2011 and presents weighted averages or frequency distributions over all firms with non-missing data.
This blog post by Scribbr provides a concise introduction to frequency distribution tables and its types along with examples.
This blog post by Julie Young on Investopedia provides provides a clear introductory overview of frequency distributions.