How to: Use spreadsheets to organize data

If you’re dealing with a lot of data, one way to organize it is by using a spreadsheet, such as Excel. This is especially useful if you’re interested in data journalism. But the problem for many beginners is where do you start?

Poynter, a resource for journalists in the United States, has a great article by Joshua Hatch on “How journalists can use Excel to organize data for stories.” (It’s part of a series of articles Poynter is posting from Hacks/Hackers featuring How Tos journalists can use.)

Hatch specifically looks at Excel and breaks it down into the following categories:

  • Simple formulas;
  • Data types;
  • Separating columns;
  • Using headers;
  • Sorting and filtering;
  • and Pivot tables.

The article is a bit long but it uses pictures to very, very clearly explain how you can use a spreadsheet. As Hatch says, “Excel (and other spreadsheet programs) are powerful tools and a valuable part of a reporter’s digital arsenal. Although this tutorial is by no means exhaustive, it should enable you to dig into the next spreadsheet you get without fear.”

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