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Chapter 1. Making Sense of Data > The Types of Data That You Can Analyze

The Types of Data That You Can Analyze

Data analysis is the general term used to encompass activities related to the examination, interpretation, synthesis, and summarization of data. In real-world computing, these activities translate to people using software to make sense of—and making smarter business decisions based on—their business’ or organizations’ data. This definition of data analysis frames the rest of this book’s contents.

All About Data

At its core, data is about using groups of letters, numbers, and other characters to represent facts in the real world. For example, the string of characters Seattle 64°F 10/14/2002 most likely represents the fact that the temperature in the city of Seattle on the date 14 October 2002 was 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, the string of characters MSFT 45.35 7/26/2002 most likely represents the fact that the closing price of one share of Microsoft stock on the date 26 July 2002 was US$45.35.

Each individual component of the fact represented is known as a field. In the previous example, the letters MSFT could constitute the Company field, the numbers 45.35 could constitute the Closing Price field, and the date 7/26/2002 could make up the Date field. A group of related fields are known as a record. To continue this example, two stock records might include the following: MSFT 42.83 7/25/2002 and MSFT 45.35 7/26/2002. Related records that use the same field names are commonly grouped and stored together in electronic data files or databases. The software applications used to create and store these data files and databases usually include features that you can use to perform data analysis tasks.



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