Seeing Patterns in Data

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    Plotting the data and “eyeballing” it is a very important first step in any analysis.  Most of us have gained the skill of seeing patterns in data through practice and trial and error.
    We are developing an internal training package for new laboratory technicians and would like to include some tips and hints for seeing patterns in data.  Does anyone know of any references or resources that would be useful in this area?



    The most generous MBB with information is Tom Dunn out of Texas.  He has a new site called LeanSigmaMart.  He has his telephone number in the Process Improvement section.  He will not charge for the first call and will probably figure out a way to give you the information without charging at all!!!  He is just a really smart guy who likes to share his knowledge.  Our company used him to train Green Belts and Black Belts.  We have never had anyone better.  I hope this helps.


    Robert Butler

      The fastest way to see patterns in data is to plot the data in meaningful ways. If you yourself have had experience with plotting data then I would recommend you get a copy of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information – Tufte – and use your knowledge and the insights he offers in his book to build your own rules.
      That book and the companions Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations are, as far as I’m concerned, the three best books on graphing (and thus on seeing patterns in data) I’ve ever read/seen.



    One of Tufte’s main lessons is to plot variables against each other, as opposed to just plotting a variable against time.  Of course, we know of the value in plotting a variable against time (to look for special and common causes) but his point is that we too often miss potential cause and effect by not plotting variables against each other.
    I agree about Tufte’s books.  I have all three.  Another good one is Visualizing Data by William Cleveland.



    Tufte is an excellent resource – here is a link to his website.
    And if you have the opportunity to see him live and in person at one of his prestations – Go.

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