Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 26, Number 2 (November/December 2021), pgs 12-15.
By Erik Adams, Manager of Library Digital Initiatives, Sidley Austin LLP; Martin Korn, Director of Research and Knowledge Services, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP; and Casandra Laskowski, Head of Research, Data & Instruction, University of Arizona College of Law Library
Tips and tools for mastering the basics of statistics and analytics to create your own data project.
Analytics is using math and computers to mine data for insights and knowledge. Many tools are now available that make it possible to do analytics with little more than a basic knowledge of statistics, some data, a personal computer, and the right software. You don’t have to know how to calculate the standard of deviation or have an advanced degree in computer science to do your own analytics. It is not necessary to run surveys to gather data. This article discusses some basic concepts in statistics, where to find data, and which tools to use for manipulating that data. It also makes some recommendations for librarians and legal information professionals on how to get involved in data projects.
But first, what’s wrong with Microsoft Excel? Once you really get serious about analytics, you will encounter a variety of speed bumps that are handled better with other products. Excel has limits on the amount and kinds of data it can import and manipulate. Other products make dealing with large and complex data comparatively easy. Excel’s formulas and macro language are not as expressive or sophisticated as that found in R or Python, which both allow for more options. Similarly, OpenRefine, Power BI, and Tableau make it possible to automate a lot of the drudgery of data preparation and cleanup. Excel may be the de facto product people use to manage and share tabular data, but that does not mean it is the best tool for the job. ere are things that it is very good at, but there are many tasks that are better done with other tools. You could use a hammer to drive in a bolt, but a wrench will do the job better. Similarly, you can do analytics with Excel, but you will be more efficient using other programs.
This article was developed from a program at the 2021 American Association of Law Libraries Virtual Conference. The session had a companion workbook that is still available for download (visit bit.ly/ND21DIYworkbook). The workbook provides a walkthrough of different kinds of analytics, using a fictional data set.Continue reading