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A crash course in data for information graphics

David Herzog spoke to our information graphics class on data collection. His bio page Missouri School of Journalism


Here are some notes and resources from his presentation:

The data flow

  1. Locating the data
  2. Obtaining the data
  3. Evaluating the data
  4. Working with the data
  5. Visualizing the data

Locating the data

  • “Database state of mind”
  • Data has to exist. Where?

Online clues

Government websites




Missouri Data Portal

Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP)

U.S. agency FOIA pages

For example: Drug Enforcement Administration

NGO sites

The Right-to-Know Network

Open Missouri

NICAR database library

ALA state

Commercial Services

Open Data by Socrata



Foreclosure Radar

Oil Price Information Service

Search Systems


Academic data catalogs




City of Columbia Special Events Permit

Records Retention Schedules


  • State Auditor
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • U.S. Inspectors General

Google Advanced Search

  • Look for data files
  • Look for key words
  • Look only on government sites

Offline clues

Data entry

  • In the field
  • At the office


Inspection forms

Obtaining the data

  • Download it
  • Write or request a scraper with ScraperWiki
  • Convert PDFs to Excel files CometDocs
  • Just ask for it
  • Make an open records request

Evaluate your data

Look at it immediately when you get it

  • It is what you asked for/expected?
  • How many rows/records of data?
  • Is the file format OK?

Become a critical consumer of data

  • Does it look too good to be true?
  • Beware of missing information?
  • Who collected the information?
  • How? What are their methods?
  • Why?
  • What is their agenda?
  • Who supports them financially or otherwise?

Examine with a text editor

  • Notepad++ for PCs
  • TextMate for Mac

 Spreadsheet data integrity checks

Google refine data integrity checks

Scrub dirty data as needed

Analyze and Visualize your data

  • Tableau Public
  • Many Eyes
  • Muckety
  • Google Public data explorer
  • Geocommons Maker

About MU Information Graphics

A place to post and share information graphics content.


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