Exploring New Data Sets - the Stephen Few Approach

Submitted by jonpearce on Thu, 2011-10-20 22:00

Those of us who regularly prepare tables and graphs are well aware of the writings of Stephen Few, who wrote such notable references as Show Me the Numbers  and Information Dashboard Design.  Now Few has prepared a useful guide to using visualizations for data exploration – the process of understanding the relationships embedded in a set of data.  In “ Exploratory Vistas-Ways to Become Acquainted with a Data Set for the First Time” Few uses a variety of graphical techniques to begin to understand the information embodied in a newly-obtained set of data. 

Few shows how to compute useful statistical metrics and develop visualizations to understand the distributions of quantitative data (revenue, costs, units of service) and how they are affected by qualitative metrics (product, geographic area, etc.).  In doing so he presents a structured approach to dealing with this data, being sure to understand the data before attempting to draw specific conclusion from it.  It’s a free PDF and a useful read for anyone working with data.