Data Exploration and Storytelling: Finding Stories in Data with Exploratory Analysis and Visualization

Instructors: Alberto Cairo and Heather Krause

January 16 – February 26 , 2017







Welcome to the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Data Exploration and Storytelling: Finding Stories in Data with Exploratory Analysis and Visualization,” offered by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin. This is a free course open to anyone from anywhere in the world interested in data-journalism. Instructors Alberto Cairo and Heather Krause will teach how to extract journalistic stories from data using visualization, exploratory data analysis and other techniques. Learn more details below about this program and if you have any questions, please contact us at knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu.



Registering in the platform is easy. Please follow these steps:

  • 1. Create an account in the Journalism Courses system. Even if you’ve taken a course with us before, you may need to create a new account. Check to see if your previous username and password work before creating a new account.
  • 2. Wait for a confirmation in your email indicating that your account has been created. If you do not receive this, please check your spam folder.
  • 3. Log into the platform, scroll down until you see the course listings, and click on the “Data Exploration and Storytelling” course.
  • 4. A button will appear, click “Enroll” to enroll yourself into the course. You will be able to access the course from the “My Courses” menu at the top of the page.
  • 5. You will receive an email confirming your enrollment.

Please add the email addresses knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu and filipa.rodrigues@utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.

This course will introduce you to ways to use data as a source to tell stories. We’ll demonstrate techniques and tools to interrogate data for answers – gathering, cleaning, organizing, analyzing, visualizing and publishing data to find and tell stories.

At the end of the course you will come away with knowledge about:

  • How to find data
  • How to understand the data you want to work with
  • How to build stories with data using several variables or pieces of data at the same time
  • How to implement best practices around ethics and data

This course is open to anyone interested in learning about exploring stories with data.

The examples in this course will be using Microsoft Excel and Tableau Public. It will also be possible to follow the course using Google Sheets instead of Microsoft Excel.

First of all, note that this is an asynchronous course. That means there are no live events scheduled at specific times. You can log in to the course and complete activities throughout the week at your own pace, at the times and on the days that are most convenient for you.

Despite its asynchronous nature, there are still structures in place for the duration of the course. The material is organized into six weekly modules. Each module will be taught by Alberto Cairo and/or Heather Krause and will cover a different topic through videos, presentations, readings and discussion forums. There will be a quiz each week to test the knowledge you've gained through the course materials. The weekly quizzes, and weekly participation in the discussion forums, are the basic requirements for earning a certificate of participation at the end of the course.

This course is very flexible, and if you are behind with the materials, you have the entire length of the course to complete them. There are, however, suggested weekly deadlines for each module.

We recommend you note the deadlines listed in each week of the course.

  • Classes are opened on Monday. The materials for that week's module will be available on Monday.
  • Videos should be watched in the week they are assigned.
  • Readings should be completed in the week they are assigned.
  • Participation in the discussion forums should be completed after watching the videos and reading all of the week's materials. You choose one of the forums to participate in.
  • Quizzes should be completed at the end of each week, after watching the videos and reading the materials. Weekly quizzes will be available until the last day of the course, February 26, 2017, in case you get behind with the modules.

The course is divided into six weekly modules:

Module 1: Finding and Understanding Data


This week you will learn:

  • How data journalism stories get started – with data or with stories
  • Where to look for data to use in your data journalism
  • How to understand the data you find
  • How to build your own data biographies and data catalog
  • Ethics of finding and using data

Module 2: Character Development for your Data Story


This week you will learn:

  • How to get started with Excel and Tableau Public
  • Why bother with data clean and audit?
  • 10 basic steps to cleaning and auditing your data
  • How to get started categorizing your data. Assign basic roles to data in your story
  • Ethics of certain data cleaning decisions

Module 3: Basic Plot Elements of Your Story


This week you will learn:

  • How to explore and visualize one variable at a time
  • What are the different types of data
  • How to get started looking at changes and trends in your data
  • Understanding the units of analysis in your data
  • Ethics of using data results

Module 4: Advancing the Plot of Your Story


This week you will learn:

  • Looking at two variables at a time (Bivariate analysis) –
  • Concept of statistical significance – all differences are not meaningful
  • Correlation is not causation is not to be taken lightly
  • Ethics of complex statistical analysis

Module 5: The Plot Thickens in your Data Story


This week you will learn:

  • Next steps in multivariate analysis, looking at many variables at a time
  • How to combine different datasets
  • What are mediators, confounders, and moderators
  • Ethics of using simple data vs complex data

Module 6: Putting the Data Story Together


This week you will learn:

  • How to decide what to make the central focus of your data story
  • How to include data within a narrative
  • Bottom line is transparency and accuracy
  • How to communicate uncertainty
  • Ethics of data reporting to different audiences

Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of Miami. He's also director of the Visualization program at UM's Center for Computational Science. For more than a decade, Cairo was an infographics director at publications in Spain in Brazil, like El Mundo and Globo magazines. Today, besides being a professor, he works as a consultant and designer for news organizations and for companies like Google and Microsoft. He's the author of the books The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization (2012), and The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication (2016).





Heather Krause is a data scientist with years of working on complex research problems in the social, non-profit, and data journalism sectors. She is passionate about helping people understand and use the best practices and tools to transform data into rich stories. Heather has worked on many complex stories that mix math, science and creativity into comprehensive narratives and data journalism pieces. As the founder and president of Datassist she has worked with FiveThirtyEight, Orb Media, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Syrian Refugee Resettlement Secretariat, and many more international non-profit organizations.





To ensure that you receive course emails please makes sure that you have added knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu and Filipa Rodrigues (filipa.rodrigues@utexas.edu) to your contacts list. Also, check your messages in the course platform from the course home page when you log in. We will be sending weekly emails with relevant course information and updates.

A certificate of completion will be available for those who meet all of the course requirements and pay a $30 fee. You will have until the end of the course to complete the class criteria. After the February 26th, Knight Center will review your record. After confirmation of course requirements, the Knight Center will send a message through the course platform with confirmation that you fulfilled the course requirements and you qualify for the certificate. In this message, we will also send you instructions to download a PDF copy of your certificate through the course platform. You will be able to then download your certificate sometime between February 26 and March 19 before the course closes down. No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate. The certificate is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to attest to the participation in the online course.

For those that meet all of the course requirements and pay a $30.00 (US dollars) administrative fee, a certificate of completion in PDF format will be available for download through the course platform. No formal university course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate. The certificate is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to attest to the participation in the online course.

For those that want to receive a certificate of completion for the course, you must meet the following requirements:

1. Complete weekly quizzes with a 70% minimum score. (You can retake the quizzes as many times needed. Only the highest score will be recorded.)

2. Watch/listen to weekly lectures and read the weekly readings/listen to podcasts. If you were NOT able to view the videos you can still qualify for the certificate if you passed all the quizzes.

3. Participate in at least 1 discussion forum for each module. Note: In order to receive credit for participation you must post a thoughtful comment(s) that move the conversation forward or seek to provide reflections. Short posts such as the following examples: “thank you” “nice comment” “I agree” and “I disagree” will not count towards participation. To ensure your participation counts, please answer the discussion forum question(s) and/or respond to comments as thoroughly as possible.

Please add the following email addresses filipa.rodrigues@utexas.edu and knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.





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