You are here

Data Literacy

Data Literacy
A User's Guide

Additional resources:

February 2015 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
A practical, skill-based introduction to data analysis and literacy  

We are swimming in a world of data, and this handy guide will keep you afloat while you learn to make sense of it all. In Data Literacy: A User's Guide, David Herzog, a journalist with a decade of experience using data analysis to transform information into captivating storytelling, introduces students and professionals to the fundamentals of data literacy, a key skill in today’s world. Assuming the reader has no advanced knowledge of data analysis or statistics, this book shows how to create insight from publicly-available data through exercises using simple Excel functions. Extensively illustrated, step-by-step instructions within a concise, yet comprehensive, reference will help readers identify, obtain, evaluate, clean, analyze and visualize data. A concluding chapter introduces more sophisticated data analysis methods and tools including database managers such as Microsoft Access and MySQL and standalone statistical programs such as SPSS, SAS and R. 

Chapter 1: Data Defined
Climbing the pyramid  
A brief history of the data world  
Data file formats  
Chapter 2: Clues for uncovering data
Why agencies collect, analyze, publish data  
Clues from data entry  
Clues from reports  
Tricks to uncover forms and reports  
On your own  
Chapter 3: Online databases
Destination: data portals  
Statistical stockpiles  
Agency sites  
Non-governmental resources  
Data search tricks  
Don’t forget the road map  
On your own  
Chapter 4: Identifying and requesting offline data
Other clues for offline data  
Find the data nerd  
Requesting the data  
Writing the data request  
FOIA in action  
Negotiating through obstacles  
Getting help  
On your own  
Chapter 5: Data dirt is everywhere
All data are dirty  
Detecting dirt in agricultural data  
Changed rules = changed data  
On your own  
Chapter 6: Data integrity checks
Big-picture checks  
Detailed checks  
On your own  
Chapter 7: Getting your data in shape
Column carving  
Concatenate to paste  
Date tricks  
Power scrubbing with OpenRefine  
Extracting data from PDFs  
On your own  
Chapter 8: Number summaries and comparisons
Simple summary statistics  
Compared to what?  
On your own  
Chapter 9: Calculating summary statistics and number comparisons
Sum crimes by year  
Minimum and maximum numbers  
Amount change  
Stepping up to percent change  
Running rates  
Running ratios  
Percent of total  
More summarizing  
On your own  
Chapter 10: Spreadsheets as database managers
Filtering records  
Grouping and summarizing  
On your own  
Chapter 11: Visualizing your data
Data visualization defined  
Some best practices  
Chapter 12: Charting choices
Visualizing data with charts  
On your own  
Chapter 13: Charting in Excel
Pie chart  
Horizontal bar charts  
Column and line charts  
Stock chart  
On your own  
Chapter 14: Charting with Web tools
Online visualization options  
Evaluating web visualization platforms  
Creating Fusion Table charts  
On your own  
Chapter 15: Taking analysis to the next level
Database managers  
Statistical programs  


Student Study Site

The open-access Student Study Site includes the following:

  • Easy to use data sets for lessons
  • "On Your Own"exercises aimed to help students test their data literacy

It is a very useful and easy-to-follow book. I intend to recommend it to my students as a complimentary source to gain an understanding of the context, concepts and main steps for doing data driven journalism.

Mrs Özlem Erkmen
Communication Sciences, Dogus University
February 15, 2018

A very useful book, and I am using it as a supplemental text. The book uses Excel as the analytic tool -- normally a very good choice -- be we are using SPSS in the class. I have recommended the students buy their own copies if they intend to conduct analyses on their own or for their employer in the future, where SPSS may not be available.

Dr Robert Griffin
College Of Commmunication, Marquette University
November 28, 2014
Key features


  • A unique approach weaves background information about data with practical, hands-on lessons that develop fundamental research skills all students  should understand
  • Easy-to-follow tutorials provide readers with step-by-step instructions to quickly begin analyzing data without having advanced knowledge of data analysis or statistics
  • Extensive illustrations throughout the book demonstrate to readers how to understand data
  • End-of-chapter On Your Own exercises challenge readers to develop their skills through easy-to-use data files and questions to reinforce the chapter learning objectives
  • Student Study Site includes data sets that readers can use to test their data literacy




Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 7

Chapter 13

Preview this book

For instructors

Review and Desk copies for this title are available digitally via VitalSource.

Request e-review copy

If you require a print review copy, please call: (800) 818-7243 ext. 6140 or email

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from
*180 day rental

This title is also available on SAGE Research Methods, the ultimate digital methods library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.