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Head First Data Analysis: A learner's guide to big numbers, statistics, and good decisions Paperback – 7 Aug 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 486 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (7 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596153937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596153939
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Michael Milton likes books. Before his first day of high school wrestling, he checked out a stack of books on technique from the library and practiced on his not-terribly-enthusiastic little sister. Then he spent the first few minutes of tryouts kicking the butts of other newbies, until the experienced wrestlers realized how much fun it would be to kick his. Within a few months, he became a decent wrestler, but he always stayed a bit ahead of the other newbies because of those books.

His life has consisted of gleefully going through that process over and over again in completely unrelated fields. Naturally, he's a Head First fanatic.

Until recently Michael spent most of time looking at databases to help nonprofit organizations figure out how to make more money. He has a degree in philosophy from New College of Florida and one in religious ethics from Yale University. When he's not in the library or the bookstore, you can find him in-line skating, taking pictures, and brewing beer.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Salvatore McDonagh on 7 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I like the Head First series, and this book is up to the usual standard in the familiar Head First format. I enjoy the concept, design and the excellent implementation of the series. OK, so now that I've sung the praises of "Head First" what about this particular book - "Data Analysis"?

I found it immediately useful, more so than several tomes that are currently weighing down my bookshelf. It is fairly light on statistics, but very practical with the examples used. (I recommend Head First Statistics as the logical companion guide to get you started understanding the most commonly used stats.)

Head First Data Analysis gives enough of a taste of data analysis to get you started, with excellent pencil and paper exercises, the absolute minimal amount of Excel and the briefest introduction to using R possible. The Excel examples are illustrative of common problems that data analysts need to solve and will be immediately useful for most people - I have been using spreadsheets to manipulate data since 1986 but I learned a few tricks which paid for the book the first time I used them. (There is a more comprehensive Excel book in the series Head First Excel: A learner's guide to spreadsheets)

The intro to R is barely enough to whet your appetite - I'd recommend searching youtube for some free video tutorials to get a better idea of how to use this fantastic open source tool (actually it is a programming language, but most users of R never need to write any code). R really is such a vital component of the data analysts toolkit that I felt obliged to remove a star (from what otherwise would have been a 5 star rating) for the scanty treatment it was given.

Overall a very readable book, practical, and the learning process is fun. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Hussain on 5 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
I am a newbie to data analysis and I found this book excellent. It gives you real life situations to which you have to find a solution by collecting data from internal and external sources and applying maths/statistics principles to.

The real life examples and graphics makes it stick in your head and are a refreshing change from reading just text.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Miss Sunny Dee on 20 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gather that this is a 'brain friendly' book, but more effort should have been made to ensure that the reader uses their brain to produce correct results. I have only got to page 37 and I'm astonished at the fundamental errors in analysis it seems to be encouraging. For example, making assumptions on the demographic of product end-users based only on the name of the vendor or shop is not an accurate analysis method. Are Sassy Girl Cosmetic's customers really 'tween' girls? How do you know for sure? The exercise question `write down what this [vendor name] data tells you about who's buying MoisturePlus' can be answered succinctly - it tells you nothing! This should have been shown as the perfect example of fundamentally spurious assumptions that causes bad analysis. I'm not impressed. Sorry.
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By Basil on 10 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent beginners Guide to data analysis, good number of exercises and clear explanation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 35 reviews
58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Combines mathematics, tools, and tactics 30 Aug. 2009
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is for professionals that must analyze data in their daily work. First off, if you are unfamiliar with the approach of the "Head First" series of books by O'Reilly, the approach was and is revolutionary in the field of technical writing. The authors of this series know that page after page of terse text will not easily penetrate the brain of the working professional who needs help rather quickly. Traditional textbook models work best on students in a traditional classroom setting who can slowly absorb material over a period of several months with the help of bi-weekly classroom sessions with a professor. The working professional does not have this luxury of time or of personal tutoring.

Thus the authors both penetrate your brain and hold your interest by serving information up in unusual ways - odd pictures and illustrations, Q&A sessions, repeating the same material in different ways, and interesting case studies in which you are asked at every step to give your input. They'll even lead you down the the wrong path every now and then so that you remember the right one all the better.

As for the subject matter, this is not a book on statistics and how to solve problems in statistics. Instead, it is how you use various statistical models and tools and visualization to analyze often confusing corporate data and come up with recommendations based on that data. Some mathematical methods will be presented as they are necessary to solving the underlying problems - optimization, hypothesis testing, bayesian statistics, subjective probabilities, heuristics, and histograms - these are all mentioned and even have their own chapters. However, this book is also about tools - R and the analysis tools of Excel specifically. In the appendix, this book even shows you how to install R.

However, I don't believe that you could get away with knowing nothing of statistics and really get the most out of this book. If you do happen to have the luxury of a little time I suggest the following. Read the excellent Head First Statistics as a tutorial, and then use the problems in Schaum's Outline of Statistics (Schaum's Outline Series) to test your knowledge. Then you should be more than ready for this book.

The author has a chapter entitled "leftovers" that tells you what this book does not cover. I include that here so that you don't waste your time if this is what you are looking for:

1 Everything else in statistics
2 Excel skills - (book assumes previous experience)
3 Edward Tufte and his principles of visualization
4 PivotTables
5 Nonlinear and multiple regression
7 Null-alternative hypothesis testing
8 Randomness
9 Google Docs

I highly recommend this book for the right audience with the right experience level.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Slice and dice data like a Ninja 24 Aug. 2009
By Bill Mietelski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First, a disclaimer: as one of the technical reviewers for the book, I might be a little biased. Having said that, I'm willing to bet my copy of Head First Data Analysis that this won't be the last 5-star review you'll find here :-)

By my count this is the 20th book in the Head First series, so by now most Amazon customers know the story behind the Head First format, style, and pedagogy. These aren't your typical technical books, so if this is the first Head First book you're considering, you owe it to yourself to get a sneak preview first. I think you'll be in for a treat.

The Amazon Reader does have the first six pages of Chapter 1, which will give you some idea, but I'd recommend going to Head First Labs where you can download and read the entire 2nd chapter. You can also grab the full Table Of Contents in PDF format, which I believe is a little easier on the eyes than the TOC in the Amazon Reader.

The book is written for folks without hardcore data analysis experience who are looking for an introduction to analyzing data to make better decisions. You won't need a background in statistics, engineering, or computer science. While some data analysis books assume you're a math geek, Michael Milton does not.

And while many "Data Analysis" books pretty much revolve around Excel's data analysis functions (Analysis ToolPak, Solver, etc), this book is more about how you work with data, not about how you use a particular software tool. While you do use spreadsheets and a statistical computing software package called "R", the focus is on using the tools between your ears to become a better data analyst.

These days almost everyone needs to deal with and interpret data. Those that become successful know how to make sense of it all. This book will help you think about, process, and present your data so you can draw reliable conclusions to real-life questions.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Too much fluff 15 Feb. 2011
By Gregory A. Stobbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While some of the Head First series have been quite helpful, this one has way too much fluff, making it tedious to find the important content. By way of example, the entire page 97 is devoted to "Profits fell through the floor" with a picture of a sad person, a picture of a pile of rubber ducks, a sample letter expressing a complaint, and the conclusion that "this is pretty bad news." Page 97 lies in the middle of the "optimization" chapter, but you don't get to the punch line on what to do about the "pretty bad news" until page 108. The pace of the book is simply too slow--which I attribute to an overuse of the Head First style, a style supposedly "designed for the way your brain works." My brain would have been happier if the editors had picked up the pace.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Transforming Data Into Better Decision Making 21 Aug. 2009
By Ira Laefsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Like the rest of the excellent Head First Series this volume provides excellent planned pedagogy (teaching) in the field it addresses.
But, this excellence has been put to a harder test in this volume that asks: "How do I find, analyze and present the data which will answer the questions being asked by business leaders, scientists and policy makers?". It begins with an excellent introductory section (that easily could be turned into a book of its own) about how business and policy questions and undefined verbal problems can be analyzed and directed toward the data which will provide an accurate answer to the underlying question. It proceeds to design of data-based experiments, hypothesis testing and the appropriate statistical techniques which will provide accurate and easily understandable analysis. While there is a certain amount of data-based experimental design which is presented in introduction, the statistical methods are presented together with the tools that will allow anyone with a basic quantitative intuition to analyze complex data with Excel spreadsheets and the "R" statistical language. Data visualizations of quantitative information, data cleaning and representation of relational databases are presented in a light that will lead to accurate analysis and clear conclusions, as opposed to beautiful information visualizations for their own sake.

This volume will be a valuable educational tool and reference for future generation of business and policy analysts, as well as anyone who must find and communicate the answers to difficult questions based upon numerical and data-based analysis. This book illustrates that the Head First editorial format can be excellently applied to real life decision making and analysis issues as well as it has previously been employed in teaching high school and university subject matter.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
An easy to read introductory book with no details 31 Oct. 2009
By Bin Hu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Skip this book if you really want to know how data analysis is done. Read it if you only want to get a quick look at what data analysis is about. This book covers no details. For example, in chapter 3, optimization, the author did a good job in introducing readers the idea (not the concept) of optimization and how to do it using Excel. But what is the algorithm behind the Excel solver? Or, how Excel solve the problem? Nothing is provided in the book.
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