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Analyzing Data – Spreadsheets

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Spreadsheets often are the first data tool journalists learn to use. They come in handy for cleaning and analyzing data in structured formats such as .csv files. Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are the most commonly used spreadsheets. Below are some resources to help you navigate Excel and improve your spreadsheet skills.

Data Journalism Training: Beginner Excel is a tutorial by US journalist MaryJo Webster that explains how to prep data for use in Excel and demonstrates some of the basic functions with animated screenshots. This tutorial is targeted toward PC users, but most of the functions are the same for Mac users.

Coursera and edX also offer free video courses in Excel for business, data analysis, and more. These are not generally targeted towards journalism but can teach skills that would be transferable to data stories.

Finding Stories in Spreadsheets (2016) by UK journalist Paul Bradshaw is a great resource for beginning data journalists. It provides guidance for finding stories from the new data journalist’s best friend – the spreadsheet. (Available to purchase)

GFCGlobal offers free tutorials on Excel covering topics like formatting, functions, sorting, PivotTables, and charts. The tutorial comes with a quiz. 

Mr Excel is a great resource for finding answers to Excel-related questions. Bill Jelen has been gathering tips and tools since 1998. 

A Reporter’s Guide to Excel (2016) provides screenshots and step-by-step instructions in the basic uses of Excel in journalism, such as pivot tables and data cleaning. It also includes a link to sample spreadsheets that can be used for practice. 

Spreadsheets for Journalism (2019) is a quick, gentle introduction by US-based journalism professor Brant Houston to the uses of Excel in data analysis. It explains some of the practical situations when Excel would be useful, and it demonstrates how to calculate a ratio and perform other useful mathematical operations. 

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