5 top tips for using digital data

Aug. 8, 2018

Using digital data can be used to find hidden truths in your reporting. To help you unearth those data-driven stories, let’s take a listen to Giannina Segnini, Director of the M.S. In Data Journalism Program at the Columbia University. With 25 years of reporting experience, we hear how to make the most of data for your storytelling.

1. Connect the dots - Don’t be afraid to investigate the data with creativity. This involves collecting data from multiple sources and combining this information. By doing this, you can identify different patterns to help find relevant stories. That strategy will help you how to see the whole picture.
2. Evaluate the data effectively - Do not trust any data source. Remember that data can lie just like people. You need to conduct a thorough investigation of the data before you begin to analyse it. One of the ways to investigate the data is to look at how complete the data is. Does it represent the time frame you are investigating? Look out for typos and do a quality control investigation beforehand. Also, find out who collected the data and why and when they collected it.
3. Relate the data to real life - Before you start to use the data, imagine how the data was collected. See the questions that were asked to obtain the data. Having access to the source allows you to ask better questions.
4. Data is full of acronyms and codes - You need to understand what these codes and acronyms mean before you analyse the data. Understanding these codes and acronyms can help you combine multi variables and be able to find better stories. 
5. Clean and standardise your data - You need to make sure all of the variables have the same standards. Once you’ve cleaned the data you can start finding stories based on the numbers. 

Watch the full GIJN interview with Giannina Segnini below.