Monday, February 4, 2013

Week0: Using spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are the ubiquitous tool of business, finance, science, academia, and corporate america. The most widespread of all data analysis tools, spreadsheets have no peers as such.  Spreadsheets, despite the continual enhancement of their functionality, have some drawbacks. For example:
  • Both functions and data in cells are subject to undetected statistical errors sometimes due to the slip of a cursor.
  • Mixing data and code in the same worksheet can and have created data disasters.
  • Large datasets or data results are impractical when stored in cells.
Despite these drawbacks, it is common to find thousands of spreadsheets in active use at any investment bank or accounting firm. No doubt SPA students will begin using spreadsheets well before they are in high school and continuing using them when they enter college and the working world.

As with any data analysis software, you can approach spreadsheet work from a number of different perspectives. Sometimes all you want to do is examine your data to look for relationships. Other times, you will have specific templates you want to apply repeatedly to a continuous flow of data. Often times, spreadsheet graphing capacity is the end result for some presentation or series of slides. Online training for spreadsheets is also ubiquitous. Here are some tutorial links for Open Office Calc:

  • MSU Tutorial (PDF)
  • University of Regina Tutorial (PDF)
  • "Video Tutorials for Open Office"
  • "Tutorials for Open Office"
  • Open Office Forum List of Tutorials
  • Open Office Wiki

  • The help files for most spreadsheets are extensive.  Spreadsheets are a generalized tool, designed for generic data analysis.  Your ability to use a spreadsheet well to model your problem set will depend significantly on a specific domain knowledge.  That being said, advanced spreadsheet design and development involves high-end statistical, programming and database skillsets. I've uploaded a series of 'screencast' tutorials about using basic functionality in Open Office Calc here:


    The spreadsheet for the tutorials can be found here or here. For your science projects, I will try to make myself available for help with your spreadsheets the best that I can.


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