Getting Familiar with Data

Data Science Basics

Getting familiar with data

In order to gain insights into your data, getting familiar with the data itself is critical. Moreover, with a good understanding of our data, we can identify a strategy to further processing and analysis. But before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s see some of the most common functions every Data Scientist should have under their belt.

Practical Example – Toronto Housing Data

To start off with, let’s assume I have a series of Toronto Housing price data since 2015. I would like to understand what details it contains before I can see if any further trends can be observed. We read in our data as a Panda Dataframe as per below:

import pandas as pd

# Import our housing data into Pandas
HousingData = pd.read_csv("MLS.csv")

How many records do we have?pandas.DataFrame.shape

In our example, the data is organised in a table, much like what you would expect from an Excel file or database. By reviewing the shape of our data, we can learn how many columns and how many records we have.

#Finding the shape of our dataframe
(4726, 17)

Evidently our dataframe has 17 columns, and 4726 rows of data.

What are the column headers?pandas.DataFrame.columns

Understanding that we have 17 columns, reviewing the column headers will give us more insights about our data. To do so we can use the below function.

Index(['Location', 'CompIndex', 'CompBenchmark', 'CompYoYChange',
       'SFDetachIndex', 'SFDetachBenchmark', 'SFDetachYoYChange',
       'SFAttachIndex', 'SFAttachBenchmark', 'SFAttachYoYChange',
       'THouseIndex', 'THouseBenchmark', 'THouseYoYChange', 'ApartIndex',
       'ApartBenchmark', 'ApartYoYChange', 'Date'],

The 17 columns have a certain description that tells us what it contains. Some are more obvious like “Date”, whilst others are abbreviated “THouseBenchmark”. Without more description, it may be impossible to truly guess what it may mean. Fortunately we know THouse in this case is an abbreviation for Town House, but it may not be so clear in all cases.

Looking at the first few rows or last few rows of our data can also tell us what our data looks like. We learn for instance how the data is represented? In addition, formats of numbers, dates, etc.

Example of HousingData.head() output
Example of HousingData.tail() output

How is the data stored? – pandas.DataFrame.dtypes

After checking some of our data, we can see some data are numeric and some are like text. Once we know how the data are stored, we will know how we can work with them.

Location              object
CompIndex            float64
CompBenchmark        float64
CompYoYChange        float64
SFDetachIndex        float64
SFDetachBenchmark    float64
SFDetachYoYChange    float64
SFAttachIndex        float64
SFAttachBenchmark    float64
SFAttachYoYChange    float64
THouseIndex          float64
THouseBenchmark      float64
THouseYoYChange      float64
ApartIndex           float64
ApartBenchmark       float64
ApartYoYChange       float64
Date                  object
dtype: object

We can see the column “THouseIndex” is stored as a floating point number, for instance. Secondly, the “Date” and “Location” columns are stored as an object.

Descriptive statistics of our dataset – pandas.DataFrame.describe

On one hand, our data consists of many numerical values. On the other hand, we do not know more about these values. Undoubtedly, if only there was some way to get some statistical overview. For that reason, we can use the “describe” function to gain more insights.

Example of HousingData.describe() output

As shown above, the “describe” functions tell us some basic statistics such as the mean, count, max, or min values of each column. In brief, this becomes very handy. For instance, not all count values are the same. It is important to realise the count of “SFAttachindex” is less than for “SFDetachindex”. In fact, the “describe” function provides many useful statistics based on the type of data we have.

Identify missing data – pandas.DataFrame.isna

Missing data can easily affect how we process our dataset. For instance, you can imagine taking an average of a set of numbers can vary. Hence it is important to identify if we have any missing or null value data in our dataset.

Location                0
CompIndex              10
CompBenchmark          10
CompYoYChange          10
SFDetachIndex          10
SFDetachBenchmark      10
SFDetachYoYChange      11
SFAttachIndex         132
SFAttachBenchmark     132
SFAttachYoYChange     130
THouseIndex          1193
THouseBenchmark      1193
THouseYoYChange      1192
ApartIndex           1016
ApartBenchmark       1016
ApartYoYChange       1016
Date                    0
dtype: int64

As shown above, although we had more than 4000 rows of data, most columns had some values missing. For instance “THouseIndex” had the most missing values. By comparison “Location” and “Date” did not have any missing values.

Summary – Getting familiar with data

In conclusion, we have gone over some of the most basic functions to understand our data and why getting familiar with data is so important. They are:

With these basic insights, we can find ways to clean or even correct our data before we start any analysis. Check out our articles for next steps:

Logo 100x100 About Alan Wong…
Alan is a part time Digital enthusiast and full time innovator who believes in freedom for all via Digital Transformation. 

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