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Data Visualization Guides: Home
Below are guides that will introduce you to programs frequently used for data visualization
Data Visualization Overview
Data visualization is a field or skill set utilized every time you produce a graphic to represent your data. This can be as simple as creating a scatter plot in Excel or as in depth as creating large social network diagrams. Below are a series of guides to walk you through programs frequently used for data visualization and analysis.
Tableau Prep is a tool used to build relational databases, manipulate and clean data, and ultimately organize and modify a collection of disparate datasets into a usable format. As you use Prep you will be building a "data flow" that will detail at each step what changes are made. In this guide we will be showing an overview of a number of features in Prep, but by no means are exhausting their potential. When you are manipulating the client's data, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your end goal is, and what steps you are using to get there. Joining the data at incorrect fields, or mistyping a calculation can misrepresent the data, which is a serious mistake. When in doubt, ask or write down your logic.
Tableau Desktop is a powerful program to create visualizations, live dashboards, and more all in a user-friendly and modern package. While there is a learning curve, most of the base functionality can be easily learned without and prior experience with visualization softwares. Using Tableau Desktop is usually done under the assumption that data is properly cleaned and ready to be visualized. While there is a lite version of the manipulation tools Tableau Prep has, these are best used sparingly and entering clean prepped data. When you are visualizing the client's data, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your end goal is, and what steps you are using to get there. Using the wrong type of average, or choosing the wrong graph can misrepresent the data, which is always a serious mistake. When in doubt, ask or write down your logic.
Gephi is an open-source program that creates network diagrams. A network diagram visualizes how data points are connected and can be grounded (such as showing how universities are connected on a map, with each node resting on the college's location) or abstract (such as a diagram showing which actors work together). These are typically used to show how your data points are connected to one another, and has a wide number of applications such as social networks, tracking spread of diseases, and mapping collaborations. Once the user selects how the data should be connected Gephi uses sorting algorithms to place each data point and build the connections between them. Gephi includes a number of sorting algorithms and the ability to modify a lot of the visual aspects of the diagram, allowing a wide number of ways to show your data. It is necessary to know how the data you are working with is structured, and what you wish to visualize. Gephi has requirements for how the data must look to be imported into this program, but there are plug-ins available that can structure your data automatically to help alleviate this process.