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Head First Data Analysis

Head First Data Analysis

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There's a whole world of data out there, and it's your job to make sense of it all. Where to begin? Head First Data Analysis helps you collect and organize your data in Excel or OpenOffice, go further with the powerful statistical computing software package R, sort the distractions from the truth, find meaningful patterns with scatterplots and histograms, optimize your solutions, draw conclusions using heuristics, predict the future by experimenting and testing hypotheses, and display findings to others with clear visualizations and reporting.

Whether you're a product developer charged with researching markets for viability of a new product or service, a marketing manager who needs to gauge or predict the effectiveness of a campaign, a salesperson who needs to interpret and present data to clients to convince them to buy the product, or a lone entrepreneur responsible for all of these data-intensive functions and more, Head First Data Analysis is a complete learning experience for wrangling data into the most useful tool in your business.

With Head First Data Analysis, you'll learn how:

  • Determine which data sources to use and collect information
  • Assess data quality and distinguish signal from noise
  • Build basic data models to illuminate patterns, and assimilate new information into the models
  • Cope with ambiguous information
  • Design experiments to test hypotheses and draw conclusions
  • Use segmentation to organize your data within discrete market groups
  • Visualize data distributions to reveal new relationships and persuade others
  • Predict the future with sampling and probability models
  • Clean your data to make it useful
  • Communicate the results of your analysis to your audience

1 illustrative image from inside the book.

Read Me:
What you should know before reading this book

This is a learning experience, not a reference book. We deliberately stripped out everything that might get in the way of learning whatever it is we're working on at that point in the book. And the first time through, you need to begin at the beginning, because the book makes assumptions about what you've already seen and learned.

This book is not about software tools.

Many books with "data analysis" in their titles simply go down the list of Excel functions considered to be related to data analysis and show you a few examples of each. Head First Data Analysis, on the other hand, is about how to be a data analyst. You'll learn quite a bit about software tools in this book, but they are only a means to the end of learning how to do good data analysis.

We expect you to know how to use basic spreadsheet formulas.

Have you ever used the SUM formula in a spreadsheet? If not, you may want to bone up on spreadsheets a little before beginning this book. While many chapters do not ask you to use spreadsheets at all, the ones that do assume that you know how to use formulas. If you are familiar with the SUM formula, then you're in good shape.

This book is about more than statistics.

There's plenty of statistics in this book, and as a data analyst you should learn as much statistics as you can. Once you're finished with Head First Data Analysis, it'd be a good idea to read Head First Statistics as well. But "data analysis" encompasses statistics and a number of other fields, and the many non-statistical topics chosen for this book are focused on the practical, nitty-gritty experience of doing data analysis in the real world.

The activities are NOT optional.

The exercises and activities are not add-ons; they're part of the core content of the book. Some of them are to help with memory, some are for understanding, and some will help you apply what you've learned. Don't skip the exercises. The crossword puzzles are the only thing you don't have to do, but they're good for giving your brain a chance to think about the words and terms you've been learning in a different context.

The redundancy is intentional and important.

One distinct difference in a Head First book is that we want you to really get it. And we want you to finish the book remembering what you've learned. Most reference books don't have retention and recall as a goal, but this book is about learning, so you'll see some of the same concepts come up more than once.

The book doesn't end here.

We love it when you can find fun and useful extra stuff on book companion sites. You'll find extra stuff on networking at the following url: http://www.headfirstlabs.com/books/hfda/

The Brain Power exercises don't have answers.

For some of them, there is no right answer, and for others, part of the learning experience of the Brain Power activities is for you to decide if and when your answers are right. In some of the Brain Power exercises, you will find hints to point you in the right direction.

Review quotes

"It's about time a straightforward and comprehensive guide to analyzing data was written that makes learning the concepts simple and fun. It will change the way you think and approach problems using proven techniques and free tools. Concepts are good in theory and even better in practicality."

- Anthony Rose, President, Support Analytics

"Head First Data Analysis does a fantastic job of giving readers systematic methods to analyze real-world problems. From coffee, to rubber duckies, to asking for a raise, Head First Data Analysisi shows the reader how to find and unlock the power of data in everyday life. Using everything from graphs and visual aides to computer programs like Excel and R, Head First Data Analysis gives readers at all levels accessible ways to understand how systematic data analysis can improve decision making both large and small."

- Eric Heilman, Statistics teacher, Georgetown Preparatory School

"Buried under mountains of data? Let Michael Milton be your guide as you fill your toolbox with the analytical skills that give you an edge. In Head First Data Analysis, you'll learn how to turn raw numbers into real knowledge. Put away your Ouija board and tarot cards; all you need to make good decisions is some software and a copy of this book."

- Bill Mietelski, Software engineer

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Buy 2 books, get 1 free!

Buy 2 books and get the third free! Use the coupon code OPC10 when you check out.

Who is this book for?

If you can answer "yes" to all of these:

  • Do you feel like there's a world of insights buried in your data that you'd only be able to access if you had the right tools?
  • Do you want to learn, understand, and remember how to create brilliant graphics, test hypotheses, run a regression, or clean up messy data?
  • Do you prefer stimulating dinner party conversation to dry, dull, academic lectures?

You should probably back away from this book if you can answer "yes" to any of these:

  • Are you a seasoned, brilliant data analyst looking for a survey of bleeding-edge data topics?
  • Have you never loaded and used Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice calc?
  • Are you afraid to try something different? Would you rather have a root canal than mix stripes with plaid? Do you believe that a technical book can't be serious if it anthropomorphizes control groups and objective functions?

Forum

Ask the authors questions and chat with fellow readers in the Head First Data Analysis Forum.