Tips on using Excel to get a handle on large data files

Med-Studies-Excel-tipsheetIn the age of big data and large datasets available through the CDC, the NIH, and other entities, it helps to know what to do with all that information. One tool for manipulating it – especially since so much is provided in CSV files that easily open in spreadsheets – is Excel.

Consider, for example, data on vaccinations from the National Immunization Survey. The CDC has downloadable data sets going back for nearly two decades. A journalist might want to look for trends in that data, such as changes in coverage in a particular state or changes in uptake for particular vaccines. But once you get all that data downloaded, what do you do with it to look for those trends, especially if you don’t know much about Excel?

That’s where Joshua Hatch’s primer on Excel and data manipulation, posted at Poynter, comes in handy. He starts with the very basics, explaining what the cells are, and then goes through how formulas and sorting work. Even those with some beginner or intermediate experience using Excel may find the tutorial, rich with screenshots, helpful.

After moving through Hatch’s tips, a similarly helpful tip sheet on sorting and filtering spreadsheets in Excel is this one by Linda J. Johnson at IRE.

After reviewing these new primers, check out some of the health-related data sets and additional tip sheets available from AHCJ, including these two:

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