Visualizing Sequences in the Social Sciences: Relative Frequency Sequence Plots

Anette Eva Fasang, Tim Futing Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visualization is a potentially powerful tool for exploration and complexity reduction of categorical sequence data. This article discusses currently available sequence visualization against established criteria for graphical excellence in the visual display of quantitative information. Existing sequence graphs fall into two groups: They either represent categorical sequences or summarize them. The authors propose relative frequency sequence plots as an informative way of graphing sequence data and as a bridge between data representation graphs and data summarization graphs. The efficacy of the proposed plot is assessed by the R2 and the F statistics. The applicability of the proposed graphs is demonstrated using data from the German Life History Study on women’s family formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-676
Number of pages34
JournalSociological Methods and Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 12 2014


  • optimal matching
  • sequence analysis
  • sequence index plots
  • visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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