Exploratory data analysis

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Exploratory data analysis

What is exploratory data analysis in research methodology?

Exploratory data analysis (EDA) is pretty much the first step in the process of data analysis. It is utilized by researchers, data analysts, and data scientists to enable them to investigate and understand a dataset and summarize it contents and main characteristics, especially when they are trying to solve for a particular question or prepare more sophisticated and advanced data modeling in later stages of data analysis. 

Data visualization methods are generally used for the summarization of main characteristics.

EDA helps you figure out the best way to manipulate data sources so that you can find all the answers that you need, thus simplifying the data scientists’ jobs and helping them discover patterns, detect anomalies, test & verify hypotheses, or check assumptions.

It gives you to context that you need to develop an appropriate model and interpret the results in the right way.

exploratory data analysis
Source: Towards Data Science

What are the types of exploratory data analysis?

Univariate non-graphical

Here the data being analyzed has just one variable. It is essentially the simplest form of data analysis. Because there is just a single variable, univariate non-graphical data does not deal with causes or relationships. It’s main purpose is to describe the data and detect the patterns in it.

Univariate graphical

Graphical methods are needed because non-graphical methods do not give you a full picture of the data. Some widely used kinds of  univariate graphics are:

  • Stem-and-leaf plots:
    These showcase all data values and the shape of the distribution.
  • Histograms:
    These are bar plots where every bar represents the frequency (count) or proportion (count/total count) of cases for a range of values.
  • Box plots:
    These are used to graphically represent the five-number summary of minimum, first quartile, median, third quartile, and maximum.

Multivariate non-graphical

Multivariate data comes from more than one variable. Multivariate non-graphical EDA techniques tend to depict the relationship between two or more variables of the data by means of cross-tabulation or statistics.

Multivariate graphical

This involves using graphics on multivariate data for the purpose of displaying relationships between multiple sets of data. The grouped bar plot is the widest used graphic. It is a bar chart in which every group represents one level of one of the variables and every bar within a group representing the levels of the other variable.

Some widely used types of multivariate graphics are:

  • Scatter plots:
    These are made to plot data points on a horizontal and a vertical axis to show how much one variable is affected by another.
  • Multivariate chart:
    This is essentially a graphical representation of the relationships between factors and a response.
  • Run chart
    This is a line graph with data that has been plotted over time. 
  • Bubble chart
    This displays multiple circles (bubbles) in a two-dimensional plot.
  • Heat map
    This is a graphical distribution of data in which the values are depicted by color.

Why do we use exploratory data analysis?

Researchers make use of exploratory data analysis because it helps them make sense of the data that they have access to, helping them figure out which questions should be asked, how they should be framing those questions, and the manner in which they should approach survey respondents to help them discover information and insights that they think are missing.

Data analysts use exploratory data analysis since it helps them:

  • Detect the mistakes and errors that were committed during the data collection phase and the areas where you might be lacking data.
  • Map out and understand the underlying structure of the data.
  • Figure out which are the most important and influential variables in the dataset.
  • Identify, list out and highlight anomalies and outliers in the dataset.
  • Test and validate previously proposed hypotheses.
  • Create a parsimonious model.
  • Estimate parameters, determine confidence intervals, and define margins of error.

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What are the goals of exploratory data analysis?

The main goal of exploratory data analysis is to maximize the insights that a data analyst can get from a dataset and the underlying structure of a dataset. It’s aim is to inspect and analyze a dataset without assuming anything about its contents.

This allows them to recognize patterns and potential causes for observed behaviors without being bound by assumptions.

It helps them answer questions that interest them or inform decisions about the statistical model that would be most appropriate to use in future stages of data analysis.

What are the advantages of exploratory data analysis?

Some advantages of exploratory data analysis are:

  • Gives you a better understanding of variables by extracting averages, mean, minimum, and maximum values, etc.
  • Enables you to detect errors, outliers, and missing values in the data.
  • It empowers you to identify patterns by virtue of visualizing data in graphs such as box plots, scatter plots, and histograms.

The main goal of exploratory data analysis is to help you understand the data in a more comprehensive manner and use tools effectively to glean useful insights or draw conclusions.

What are the tools used for exploratory data analysis?

Python and R are the mostly commonly used data science tools that were used to create an exploratory data analysis.


This is an interpreted object-oriented programming language that has dynamic semantics. It has high-level, built-in data structures and dynamic typing and dynamic binding, which makes it very appealing for rapid application development and and as a scripting or glue language for the purpose of connecting existing components to each other.

By using Python and EDA together, you can detect values that are missing in a dataset, which would help you figure out how to handle missing values for machine learning.


This is an open-source programming language and a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics that is supported by the R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

It is commonly used by statisticians in data science for the purpose of developing statistical observations and data analysis.

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