Excel Fundamentals

By this point in semester, we have already covered different ways to find, access, and clean data to be used in stories. Now it’s the time we get our hands dirty and dig into the data. However, beforehand, you need to understand what are you looking for in your dataset. There are several ways the keen eye of a journalists should be examining the data. You should be looking for:

  • Summaries
  • Trends
  • Contrasts
  • Outliers

The first step in doing so is getting familiar with software that lets us do this. There are two most common software used by journalists to analyze and examine the data: Excel and Google spreadsheets. In today’s lecture, we will learn the basics of Excel Spreadsheets.

Working with Equations in Excel

There are two ways to work with equations in Excel. The following are the most basic ones:

  1. Built-in equations called “Functions”
  2. You can add mathematical equations into cells and get solutions.
  • Write the equation in the cell where you want the solution stored
  • Always begin an equation with the equal sign (=)
  • Write your equation as you would in a calculator. Example: =(cell1)(+,-,*,/)(cell2)         Example: [=A1+B2]
  • Use cell names rather than the data in a cell (example:”A1” instead of “12”) to ensure that if the data changes, the solution to your equation will update automatically
  • Hit Enter to calculate your equation and return a solution


Simple Math Functions

Sum – add up a set of numbers

  • Sum function in Excel adds a range of cell values together

Measures of Centrality:

  • Average – finds the average from a range of cells. It’s the total of the value divided by the numbers of the value
  • Median – the middle value of an ordered list of values
  • Mode – the most common value



Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 11.00.58 AM.png

Percentage Change: comparing new and old values

  • Formula: = (new-old)/old*100




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