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A rectangular chart has three functions in the process of taxonomy and classification. The ubiquitous Mendeleev’s chart is an example ready to hand. By arranging many elements in a set into columns and rows, the researcher is highlighting similarities and graduating the differences. In chemistry, for example, Mendeleev arranged the elements by the number of negative charges and discovered that the electrons could be located in rings (although is really a metaphor); he then realized that a new ring started after eight electrons. (Of course this is a simplification here.) A chart, then, in which a new horizontal line was begun after each ring was full showed him that the elements in the vertical rows shared interesting and important similarities—metals, acids, etc. The value of any chart, then, is its ability to make visible the like elements, and to arrange all elements into patterns that ordered the information into useful groups. This is true of business information, environmental factors, or any other project calling for the organization of knowledge into patterns. This understanding of patterns and repeated traits enables you to deal with the wide range of information at your disposal.
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