Archived Course

Hands-On Data Journalism: Techniques of Analysis and Visualization

May 31 - June 27, 2021
Instructor(s):   John Keefe

Welcome to the Knight Center's new Big Online Course (BOC), "Hands-On Data Journalism: Techniques of Analysis and Visualization," organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. During this four-week course, which will be held from May 31 to June 27, 2021, students will learn simple, powerful data skills to apply to their reporting — making it easier to ask questions of data and turn datasets into sources for your stories. Watch the video below and read on for more details, including instructions on how to register.

This BOC costs $95, which includes full access to the course as well as a certificate of completion for those who meet the course requirements. Our BOCs provide a more advanced level of training and are limited to a few hundred students, allowing for greater interaction between the students and instructor.

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Registering on 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 if your original account has been inactive.

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) Pay the $95 registration fee. Click here to pay. The payment must be made only by those who already have an account in the Journalism Courses system. The username and email you used in the system will be required when you complete payment.

Unlike most Knight Center courses, which are free, this Big Online Course (BOC) will provide a more advanced level of training and will be limited to a few hundred students, allowing for greater interaction between the students and instructor.

Once you pay the $95 course fee, you will receive a payment receipt but you will not automatically be enrolled in the course. It may take up to 72 hours for the Knight Center to enroll you. Once enrolled, you will receive an enrollment confirmation email with details on how to access the introductory module of the course. Please add the email addresses journalismcourses@austin.utexas.edu and filipa.rodrigues@utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.

Through hands-on tutorials over the next four weeks, we want to make you a better data journalist who can use a few free tools and specific techniques to make it easier to mine datasets in search of answers and stories. We will use an example database (about dogs 🐶 !) along with a dataset of your own choosing.

Provide clear, direct, repeatable steps to analyze and present data that you can use to power your journalism for years to come. You will finish this class with the ability to:

  • Spot stories by summarizing many records into manageable categories with pivot tables
  • Combine two datasets in Google Sheets to help with your research
  • Understand basic SQL commands for more sophisticated groupings and analysis
  • Map and chart your data quickly and easily, for research or publication

Introduction Module - Getting the class data — and using your own 

We’ll get you prepared for the course by finding and downloading the example data we’ll use throughout the class. But we want to explore your data as well. Maybe it’s a dataset you’re working on for a project, something you’ve always wanted to explore, or a topic that interests you. The exercises and discussions will encourage you to try these techniques on your own data along the way.

This module will cover:

  • A quick overview of the lessons
  • A guide to the example data we’ll use and where to get it
  • Tips on how to participate using your own data

Module 1: Mastering pivot tables & VLOOKUP with Google Sheets 
(May 31 - June 6, 2021)

You’ve probably used Google Sheets (or another spreadsheet program) to do basic research, but you might not have used two of the most useful — yet often daunting — operations in Sheets: Pivot tables and VLOOKUP. With John’s tips and guidance, you’ll master these approaches and power your data journalism into the future.

This module will cover:

  • Summarizing data using Pivot Tables in Google Sheets
  • Three crucial steps to mastering Pivot Tables
  • Using Pivot Tables to help clean your data
  • Combining datasets using VLOOKUP

Module 2: Mining your data with SQL
(June 7 - 13, 2021)

When we start asking slightly more in-depth questions of our data, spreadsheets can have trouble answering. So we need a database. You’ll learn how to use databases that speak “Structured Query Language” (SQL) and a basic set of phrases that will help you get the answers you need. Plus to run and use databases for your journalism.

This module will cover:

  • The basic concepts behind using a database
  • The six SQL phrases that will cover almost all of your needs
  • Answering more complicated questions using those phrases
  • An introduction to Datasette, which makes it easy to run and use SQL databases

Module 3: Using Datasette to collaborate and share data
(June 14 - 20, 2021)

We’ll introduce you to Datasette, a free, hassle-free tool to spin up your own databases. In addition to using it for your own journalism, Datasette allows you to share and explore data with your colleagues, and even make it available to your audience.

This module will cover:

  • Quickly creating databases with Datasette and Glitch
  • Data collaboration with colleagues (even remote ones)
  • Sharing a live, searchable dataset with your audience
  • A conversation with the creator of Datasette about other tips, tricks, and advanced features

Module 4: Charting and mapping your data with Datawrapper
(June 21 - 27, 2021)

We’ll turn our data analysis into beautiful data visualizations you can publish quickly and easily.

This module will cover:

  • Making charts with our data using Datawrapper
  • Making maps out of our data using Datawrapper
  • Refining and publishing your visualizations

JKJohn Keefe is the Senior Data + Visuals Editor for climate coverage at CNN. He was previously a graphics/multimedia editor at the New York Times, the investigations editor at Quartz — where he also led the Quartz AI Studio — and the Senior Editor for Data News at public radio station WNYC. He also led WNYC's news division for nearly a decade. A self-described "professional beginner," Keefe runs a tinkering and teaching company called Really Good Smarts LLC. Keefe has taught classes about online investigations, data journalism, machine learning, and journalism products at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Keefe also has led classes and workshops at Columbia University, Stanford University, the New School University, and New York University, and he was an Innovator in Residence at West Virginia University's Reed College of Media. Keefe blogs at johnkeefe.net and tweets as @jkeefe.

This course is for journalists who want to add simple, powerful data skills to their reporting — making it easier to ask questions of data and turn datasets into sources for your stories — and for novice data journalists who want to up their game.

We’ll assume a basic familiarity with spreadsheets, such as Excel or Google Sheets. If you understand the concepts of cells, rows and columns, and have used simple formulas to make calculations (even just totalling a column), you’re set. No coding experience is necessary.

Class videos allow you to try the hands-on activities at your own pace, pausing or repeating the instruction as you go. In addition to the videos, you can expect to spend another hour per week on the exercises — or longer if you’d like! — practicing the steps and trying them with your own data.

You will need a computer with an internet connection and a web browser. The computer should be a laptop or desktop running a common operating system such as Mac OS, Windows, or Linux. Mobile devices, tablets, and Chromebooks are not recommended, as it may be difficult or impossible to complete the hands-on portions of the class. We won’t have the resources to troubleshoot problems on these devices.

We will use the free features of three services you should sign up for before the class begins:

  • Google Sheets, a spreadsheet program, which requires a Google (or Gmail) login.
  • Datawrapper, a charting and mapping tool. You can create an account or use your Github, Google, Microsoft, or Twitter accounts.
  • Glitch, a tool for running data projects and websites online. You can create a login with your email address (click “Email Magic Link”) or use your Facebook, Github, or Google account.

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 four weekly modules. Each module will be taught by John Keefe 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. We do recommend you complete each of the following before the end of each week so you don’t fall behind:

  • Video lectures
  • Readings and handouts/exercises
  • Participation in the discussion forums
  • Quizzes covering concepts from video lectures and/or readings

A certificate of completion is available for those who pay the $95 course fee and meet all of the course requirements. After verifying that these requirements have been met, the Knight Center will send a confirmation message with instructions on how to download the certificate. To be eligible for a certificate, you must:

  • Watch the weekly video classes and read the weekly readings
  • Complete weekly quizzes with a 70% minimum score. (You can retake the quizzes as many times as needed. Only the highest score will be recorded.)
  • Create OR reply to at least one discussion forum each week

The certificate of completion is included in the $95 course fee. 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.