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Data Literacy

Data Literacy
A User's Guide

March 2015 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
A practical, skill-based introduction to data analysis and literacy  

We are swimming in a world of data, and this handy guide will keep you afloat while you learn to make sense of it all. In Data Literacy: A User's Guide, David Herzog, a journalist with a decade of experience using data analysis to transform information into captivating storytelling, introduces students and professionals to the fundamentals of data literacy, a key skill in today’s world. Assuming the reader has no advanced knowledge of data analysis or statistics, this book shows how to create insight from publicly-available data through exercises using simple Excel functions. Extensively illustrated, step-by-step instructions within a concise, yet comprehensive, reference will help readers identify, obtain, evaluate, clean, analyze and visualize data. A concluding chapter introduces more sophisticated data analysis methods and tools including database managers such as Microsoft Access and MySQL and standalone statistical programs such as SPSS, SAS and R. 
Chapter 1: Data Defined
Climbing the pyramid

A brief history of the data world

Data file formats

Chapter 2: Clues for uncovering data
Why agencies collect, analyze, publish data

Clues from data entry

Clues from reports

Tricks to uncover forms and reports

On your own

Chapter 3: Online databases
Destination: data portals

Statistical stockpiles

Agency sites

Non-governmental resources

Data search tricks

Don’t forget the road map

On your own

Chapter 4: Identifying and requesting offline data
Other clues for offline data

Find the data nerd

Requesting the data

Writing the data request

FOIA in action

Negotiating through obstacles

Getting help

On your own

Chapter 5: Data dirt is everywhere
All data are dirty

Detecting dirt in agricultural data

Changed rules = changed data

On your own

Chapter 6: Data integrity checks
Big-picture checks

Detailed checks

On your own

Chapter 7: Getting your data in shape
Column carving

Concatenate to paste

Date tricks

Power scrubbing with OpenRefine

Extracting data from PDFs

On your own

Chapter 8: Number summaries and comparisons
Simple summary statistics

Compared to what?


On your own

Chapter 9: Calculating summary statistics and number comparisons
Sum crimes by year

Minimum and maximum numbers

Amount change

Stepping up to percent change

Running rates

Running ratios

Percent of total

More summarizing

On your own

Chapter 10: Spreadsheets as database managers

Filtering records

Grouping and summarizing

On your own

Chapter 11: Visualizing your data
Data visualization defined

Some best practices

Chapter 12: Charting choices
Visualizing data with charts

On your own

Chapter 13: Charting in Excel
Pie chart

Horizontal bar charts

Column and line charts


Stock chart


On your own

Chapter 14: Charting with Web tools
Online visualization options

Evaluating web visualization platforms

Creating Fusion Table charts

On your own

Chapter 15: Taking analysis to the next level
Database managers

Statistical programs



Student Study Site

The open-access Student Study Site includes the following:

  • Easy to use data sets for lessons
  • "On Your Own"exercises aimed to help students test their data literacy

Great overview of the data process using spreadsheets, which seems reachable for our students.

Ms Miren Berasategi
Communications, University of Deusto in San Sebastian
September 24, 2019

It is a very useful and easy-to-follow book. I intend to recommend it to my students as a complimentary source to gain an understanding of the context, concepts and main steps for doing data driven journalism.

Mrs Özlem Erkmen
Communication Sciences, Dogus University
May 7, 2018

A very useful book, and I am using it as a supplemental text. The book uses Excel as the analytic tool -- normally a very good choice -- be we are using SPSS in the class. I have recommended the students buy their own copies if they intend to conduct analyses on their own or for their employer in the future, where SPSS may not be available.

Dr Robert Griffin
College Of Commmunication, Marquette University
September 5, 2015

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 7

Chapter 13

For instructors

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