Working with data can be broken down into a series of four steps that consist of specific skills that can be continuously improved upon. This article approaches the four steps at a beginner level to help people of all backgrounds improve their data literacy skills.
Below you will find a series of four videos that dive into each step of the data journey.
The five steps of the Data Journey
At the foundation of these data journey steps is continuous learning. There are always new data literacy skills to learn and improve, especially as new data and processes evolve over time.
Check out the infographic below to learn more about what makes up each step of the data journey.
Video series: The Data Journey
Each of the sections below consists of a short video that introduces the skills necessary for effectively completing each step of the data journey to solve a research question or problem.
Step 1: define, find, gather
Are you ready to start the data journey but not sure how to get started? Watch the video below to learn more about the first step!
The video includes details about data discovery, data gathering, and data management and organization. You’ll begin with understanding the importance of defining a specific research question followed by direction on how to identify data sources, how to retrieve data, the importance of documenting the data journey, and much more!
Step 2: explore, clean, describe
You’ve collected your data, now what? Before you start analyzing your data, some housekeeping needs to be done.
There’s a saying in the world of data modelling: garbage in, garbage out. You should prepare your data and make sure it’s at the highest quality possible before any modeling is done to ensure integrity in the data, analysis, and results. This is done by conducting a data quality control review, cleaning up the data, and describing what you have in your data inventory.
Watch the video below to see how to work your way through step two of the data journey!
Step 3: analyze, model
Watch the video below to learn about step 3 in the data journey!
If you’ve been following the steps in the data journey, you’ve now collected and cleaned your data and organized it into a standardized, user friendly database. Guess what, you just creating a data model! In this video we’ll explain the process of data modeling and how to use it to conduct data analysis.
The very beginning of the data journey emphasized the importance of a well defined research question. Step 3 of the data journey, using your data model to conduct data analysis, is where you’ll start finding the answers you're looking for.
Watch the video below to learn about data analysis and how to interpret the resulting outputs.
Step 4: tell the story
It’s the Data Journey finale! Watch the video to learn about the fourth and final step in the Data Journey!
After working through the first three steps in the data journey you now know how to find, collect, organize, and analyze data. The final step is to pull all the pieces together into a relevant and compelling story. Communicating your data and analysis in a meaningful way is key to ensuring all your hard work through the data journey is effective in informing and supporting policy development and evidence-based decision making.
Watch the video below to learn more about telling your data story through visualizations, storytelling, and supporting evidence-based decision making.
Improving your data literacy skills helps you to understand how to use and interpret data and will allow for more critical thinking and analysis. You don’t have to be an expert to work through the data journey but developing key data competencies will allow you to use data in more meaningful, impactful ways. Below is a list of learning resources that can help you enhance your data literacy skills.
Data Literacy Resources
Data to Decisions (RAnLab) -- a series of practical guides for people looking to incorporate more data into their everyday decision-making. Topics include data by geographical areas, data quality, data collection, and making sense of the census!
Learning Catalog (Statistics Canada)-- the learning category is organized by the steps of the data journey as explored above. This resource is a great next step for learning about each skill in more detail.
Study Hall: Data Literacy (Arizona State University and Crash Course) -- A 15 video playlist that explores the fundamentals of data.
Data Literacy Collection (Rutgers University) — A collection of informational resources about data literacy.
Other Helpful Resources
Data to Decisions: Data Collection (RAnLab)
Statistics Canada -- Finding Data (Carleton University)
Data to Decisions: Data Quality (RAnLab)
Data Visualization: A Primer (Open Government)
Humanize the Numbers (Research Impact Canada)
Curious to know how data literate you are? Check out this quiz!
This content is sponsored in part by the Future Skills Centre.