3 Ways Minitab Can Illustrate My Ignorance about British Honours

Cody Steele 07 January, 2015

I like learning about new things. This fondness makes it less depressing when I have to admit total ignorance on any subject. Thus, when I heard that there were “New Year honours” given out, I expected something like a Dave Letterman top ten list about events from 2014. Instead, it turns out that New Year honours are awards given out to people for their actions, achievements, or service to the United Kingdom.

Neck badge of a Commander of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire

The Guardian’s website helpfully provided a spreadsheet of the 1,164 people honored this year. Having been shamed by my lack of knowledge, I thought I’d take a look at the list with Minitab Statistical Software and see what I might notice.

The first thing I noticed was that the spreadsheet began with three columns titled “Order,” “Level,” and “Award.” “How fascinating,” I thought to myself. “I can’t wait to see what awards belong to different orders.” Here are three ways to visualize my initial ignorance in Minitab.

Bar Chart of 1,000 Categories

Because the data are categories, the first thing I did was make a bar chart. Unfortunately, it can be hard to fit many categories on a bar chart, especially if some of the labels are long. In this case, each of the three categorical variables has 10 unique values. If we make a chart with 1,000 categories, the result is not legible.

You cannot read the labels on this graph.

On the chart above, most of the combinations of categories have frequencies of zero. For example, all of the Knight Bachelor awards have order values of Knighthood, so any other combinations of the award Knight Bachelor with other orders have bars with zero height.

Bar Chart of Lengthy Labels

To make more space on our graph, the first thing to do is to hide the empty cells. That way, we need space on the chart only for the combinations of values that occur in the dataset.

All of the labels do not fit beneath the chart.

When we hide the empty cells, the number of categories on the chart decreases from 1,000 to 10. Unfortunately, the labels are so long that we still can't fit them all on the chart.

Stacked Bar Chart

One way to get more labels to fit is to stack one of the categories so that the labels are in a legend. That way, we need space for only two labels beneath the bars. So I created a stacked bar chart with the data: 

All of the labels fit if you put one category in a legend.

On this stacked bar chart, we can see that there are 10 bars...and none of them are stacked. This chart is showing us that, in the dataset, everyone who gets the same award gets it at the same level and for the same order. The variables in this dataset suggest that order, level, and award are all the same thing, which is not what I expected at all.

Wrap Up

I’m a bit relieved, in the end, to say that the source of the confusion might be the Guardian’s dataset rather than my ignorance. According to the BBC’s 2012 guide to the honours, there is no order called “Companions of the Order of the Bath” as is found in the dataset. Rather, the order is “the Order of the Bath” and Companion is a rank, or level, within that order. Now thtat I know a little bit more about the honours system than I did before, I can make a proper chart:

Only one recipient each was made a Knight Commander and a Knight Grand Cross.

This emphasizes the rarity of some honours given this New Year’s Day. Among all the honours, I would guess that (Evan) Paul Silk, the only Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, and Professor Sir John Irving Bell FRS, the only Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, deserve special congratulations.