Data wrangling: Identifying Common Tasks

Data wrangling is an essential process in data analysis that involves cleaning, transforming, and preparing data for further analysis. This process can be time-consuming and challenging, but ensuring accurate and reliable results is crucial. In this article, we will discuss some common data-wrangling tasks that data analysts perform regularly.

Data Cleaning
Data cleaning is one of the most critical steps in data wrangling, as data can often be messy and inconsistent. A common example is customer data, where customers may have entered their addresses or phone numbers in various formats. We need to clean and standardize this information to ensure our analysis is accurate.

Common data cleaning tasks include: 

  1. Dealing with missing data: Either by filling in values using techniques like interpolation or completely removing records with missing information.
  2. Correcting inconsistent data formats: You may have date formats like MM/DD/YYYY in some records and DD/MM/YYYY in others. It is important to standardize these formats.
  3. Removing duplicates: Duplicate records can skew our analysis, so it’s essential to identify and remove them.

Data Transformation
Data transformation is the process of converting data from one format or structure into another. For instance, consider a company’s sales data recorded in different currencies. To make valid comparisons between sales in different countries, we need to convert all sales figures into a single, standard currency, such as USD.

Other examples of data transformation tasks include: 

  1. Normalization: Scaling numerical data so that it falls within a specific range, allowing for easier comparison between variables with different scales or units.
  2. Binning: Grouping continuous variables into discrete categories can make analyzing trends and patterns in the data easier. For example, categorizing ages into age groups.

Data Integration
Data integration involves combining data from multiple sources to create a unified, coherent dataset for analysis. For instance, if you are analyzing customer satisfaction, you may want to integrate data from customer surveys, social media feedback, and customer support interactions to get a holistic view of customer sentiment.

Selecting and Subsetting Data
Selecting and subsetting data is the process of narrowing down a dataset to a specific subset of records or columns relevant to the analysis. For example, if you are evaluating the success of a marketing campaign, you may want to filter your dataset to include only records from the specific time period when the campaign was active.

Reshaping Data
Reshaping data involves changing the structure of your dataset to suit a specific analytical need. For instance, sales data may be recorded at a daily level, making it difficult to compare monthly sales figures. In this case, you can aggregate daily sales records into monthly totals.

Another common reshaping technique is pivoting, which involves converting rows into columns or vice versa. For example, you might have a dataset with product sales per region recorded in separate columns for each year. To compare year-over-year sales growth, you can pivot the dataset so that each year becomes a row, and the region becomes columns.

Data Enrichment
Data enrichment involves adding new information to your dataset to enhance the depth and quality of your analysis. For example, if you are analyzing a dataset of customer transactions, you might want to enrich the data with demographic information about the customers, which can be obtained from another data source or even purchased from a third-party vendor.

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