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A Picture Worth 140000 Words

# A Picture Worth 140000 Words

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There’s much more to data analysis than just calculating a few averages and creating bar charts.
There’s much more to data analysis than just calculating a few averages and creating bar charts.

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01/24/2011

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A

P
ICTURE
W
ORTH
140,000

W
ORDS

Even if i
t’s been
Stats with Cats: The Domesticated Guide to Statistics, Models, Graphs, and Other Breeds of Data Analysis

you’
llprobably
figure out that there’s much more to data analysis
than just calculating a few averages and creating bar charts.Data analysis is not easy. Even so, there are more pollstersthan ever and baseball announcers still talk endlessly aboutstatistics between pitches.M
ost of the things you’
Stats with Cats
were
never mentioned in your Statistics 101 class. You’ll have to
know about these things, though, if you want to analyze yourown data at home and at work. It looks formidable at first, atsecond, and at third, too. But like baseball, if data analysis
wasn’t hard everybody would do it

because it’s a lot of fun
.
Stats with Cats
has 140,000 words on 376, 7x10-inch pages divided into 25 chapters in 6 partswith 47 figures, 24 tables, 107 quotes, and 99 photos of cats. If all that information could bedistilled into one picture, this is what it would look like:
This data analysis stuff is hard.

You use statistics because you can; you have the knowledge and software is readily available.You use statistics because you need to, to analyze uncertainty, especially when there are toomany data to just make a graph. You use statistics when you have to, such as when the problem
can’t be solved any other way or when regulations mandate their use.
As a data analyst, you have to know many things, not just about statistics and the projectbackground,
contract, scope, schedule, budget, and deliverables. Youhave to communicate effectively, both in speech and in writing, and establish good workingrelationships with project stakeholders. You have to decide on a performance strategy, ensureyou get paid, and never compromise your ethics. Finally, you have to have the expertise and timeto do the work, and above all, you have to practice, practice, practice.Data analysis begins when you want to investigate some phenomenon that occurs in a definablepopulation. You collect samples of the population using an appropriate sampling scheme andother measures to control variance and avoid biases so that you will meet your targets forprecision and accuracy. You may need to collect more (or less) than thirty samples to meet theresolution you need for the analysis. You measure variables relevant to the phenomenon onappropriate scales. These measurements are the data, which along with the metadata, form theinformation you structure in a file format your software can recognize as a matrix. Yourobjectives and aims for model use, together with the scales and natures of your variables, enableyou to select appropriate statistical methods. You scrub the information and do an initialanalysis, which together with the objectives and methods, lead to your model specifications.Using the specs, you go through the steps of the modeling process to develop, and calibrate amodel and evaluate possible violations of assumptions. From the model, you build on yourknowledge of the phenomenon. Eventually, from critical analysis through statistics, you cansynthesize the wisdom you need to make informed decisions.The last three paragraphs describe the contents of
Stats withCats
in about 350 words, without the cats of course. See whata big difference they make?
Over time, as you analyze different datasets, you’ll becomemore comfortable with the process. You’ll learn shortcuts
to
doing things. You’ll develop an instinct for things that willwork and things that won’t. You’ll even be able to impress
workers with all the new jargon you’ve
learned. You might also learn a bit about yourself. Are youmore of a right-brained, intuitive, visual, big-picture,inductive thinker or are you more of a left-brained analytical,verbal, detail-oriented, deductive thinker. Understanding yourown preferred thought processes will help you find your bestpaths in life as well as data analysis.Being able to analyze data is the asset that sets the knowledge-wielding experts apart from thearm-
waving storytellers. Don’t wait for your boss or teacher to send you out into the many
unmarked routes of the databahn. Journey to the land of data analysis at your own speed along
paths you’re comfortable with. Don’t just endure a data analysis project. Make the journey as
fulfilling as the arrival. Make data analysis your passion.
This book needs more pictures of  MEEE!