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How To Create a User-Interactive Graph of the Normal Distribution in Excel

Updated on October 29, 2010

How To Create a User-Interactive Graph of the Normal Distribution in Excel

Here is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step article showing you how to create a user-interactive graph in Excel of the Normal Distribution. Users will be able to vary the Normal Distribution's two parameters, the mean and standard deviation, and watch those changes be reflected in the Excel graph. This lesson will also show you how to graph the outer tails, for example, the outer 5% tails, a different color. The article includes a video so you can see exaclty how it is done.

Introduction To Creating an Interactive Graph of the Normal Distribution in Excel - Here Is the Final Graph You WIll Create

Here Is the Final Graph You WIll Create
Here Is the Final Graph You WIll Create

If you are doing statistical analysis of your marketing program, you will eventually want to plot some statistically-distributed data in an Excel graph. The most commonly-occurring statistical distribution in nature and, of course, in business, is the normal distribution.

Changing the Parameters Changes the Graph - Here Is the New Graph After Changing the User-Interactive Parameters

Here Is the New Graph After Changing the User-Interactive Parameters
Here Is the New Graph After Changing the User-Interactive Parameters

This article and video will show you how to create a user-interactive graph of the normal distribution in Excel. The user of your graph will be able to vary the two parameters of the Normal Distribution - the mean and standard deviation - and then watch the changes instantly reflected in the Excel graph. Note the differences between the graph above and the graph below as a result of changes in the 2 user inputs of mean and standard deviation.

Video - Show Step-By-Step How To Create User-Interactive Graph in Excel of the Normal Distribution - ( Is Your Sound Turned On? )

The concepts covered in this article really need to be observed in the video for full comprehension. Below is an outline of the major steps appearing in the video that are needed to construct a user-interactive graph in Excel of the Normal Distribution with highlighted outer tails.

Create the X-Axis - Creating the X-Axis and the Two Y Data Columns

Create the X-Axis
Create the X-Axis

You'll notice on the video that when the user varies the mean or standard deviation inputs, it is the X-Axis that changes, not the graph. The graph will always show 3 standard deviations of normal distribution from the mean in both directions. It is the X-Axis increments that will change as a result of changes made by the user to the mean and standard deviation. The initial left-hand column starts at the top at -30 and finishes at the bottom at +30. This creates the basis of the 3 standard deviations of Normal Distribution that will show at all times on each side of the mean, regardless of the mean and standard deviation that the user has input.

2) Create 2 columns that will calculate the Normal Distribution's PDF at each point of the X-Axis - The Two Columns of Y-Axis Data

The Two Columns of Y-Axis Data
The Two Columns of Y-Axis Data

PDF is the Probability Density Function of the Normal Distribution. The data in each of these 2 columns are the Y values of two identical graphs, one sitting on top of the other.

3) Zero out the Y-Values on the outer edge(s) of the 2nd column to create the outer tails - Zeroing Out the 2nd Data Column To Create the Outer Tails

Zeroing Out the 2nd Data Column To Create the Outer Tails
Zeroing Out the 2nd Data Column To Create the Outer Tails

The 2nd column sits directly on top of the 1st column. If you set any the Y-values for that graph to 0, you allow the identical graph directly underneath to show through. For example, if you zero out the outer 2% of the Y-values on top and bottom of the 2nd column, you are allowing the lower graph to show through for the outer 2% of each tail. You are, in effect, graphing the outer 2% of the Normal Distribution by deleting the outer 2% of the tails in the upper graph, letting the different-colored lower graph to show.

4) Set the color of all elements on the Excel chart as you see best. - Setting the Color Elements

Setting the Color Elements
Setting the Color Elements

For example, you might want to change the color of the upper or lower graphs, or the color of the background. You simply left-click on the element that you wish to change the color of and then select the color in the color dialogue box that pops up. The video shows an example of this being done.

And There's the Final User-Interactive Graph of the Normal Distribution With Outer Tails - FInal Interactive Graph

FInal Interactive Graph
FInal Interactive Graph

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