Data Set Analysis (20%)

The dataset analysis will help you get to know your dataset in preparation for crafting narratives about it in the portfolio assignment. By looking at the history and context of your dataset you will be better able to evaluate the ethical and social dimensions of your work. Applying key concepts from narrative theory, semiotics, and the cultural analysis of data will enable your production of more nuanced critical creative work.


For this assignment you will choose from the list of ten possible datasets found below. Working individually, answer the exploratory questions which will help you evaluate the dataset.

After you’ve completed the exploratory questions, write a 150-to-300-word introduction to the dataset that summarizes your findings from the exploratory questions. Make sure to bring in at least two sources from class in your essay. Turn in the introduction as well as your answers to the exploratory questions in one document on eLeanring.

Although this assignment is intended to help you prepare for the portfolio, there is flexibility to change to a different dataset from the list below for the portfolio if you wish.

The Datasets

From the list below, choose a dataset that connects to your interests or about which you would like to learn more. It is not necessary that we have equal distribution across all of them, nor that all of them are chosen.

  1. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. “Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989.” https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/dataviz/dfa/distribute/chart/#range:2005.3,2020.3;quarter:124;series:Net%20worth;demographic:networth;population:all;units:levels
  2. Native Land Digital. Indigenous Territories, Languages, and Treaties. https://native-land.ca/
  3. Sinyangwe, Samuel, DeRay McKesson, and Johnetta Elzie. “Mapping Police Violence.” https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/
  4. S. Department of Education. “Student Aid Data.” https://studentaid.gov/data-center/student
  5. Southern Poverty Law Center. “Hate Map.” https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map
  6. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Temperature and Precipitation Trends.” https://www.climate.gov/maps-data/dataset/temperature-and-precipitation-trends-graphing-tool
  7. Parler Videos from the Capitol Riot. https://projects.propublica.org/parler-capitol-videos/ (honestly I’m not sure I’m ready for this one, but trusting that if you choose this, you will tread carefully)
  8. Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. “ICE Removals.” https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/remove/
  9. Princeton University and Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. “US Crisis Monitor.” https://acleddata.com/special-projects/us-crisis-monitor/
  10. Congressional Budget Office. “The Budgetary Effects of the Raise the Wage Act 2021.” https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2021-02/56975-Minimum-Wage.pdf

Grading and Evaluation

The dataset analysis is worth 20% of your course grade.


Dataset Analysis Template


Your Name

Introduction to your dataset:

Exploratory Questions:

Section 1: Authorship

  1. Who is the author(s) of this dataset?
  2. What are the credentials of the author or authors?
  3. Are they an expert on the topic? How do you know?
  4. Who publishes/hosts the dataset?
  5. What are the credentials of the publisher or host?
  6. What is the motivation to publish the dataset? How can you tell?

Section 2: Presentation & Audience

  1. Who is the intended audience for this data? How do you know?
  2. How is the data formatted? What effect does this have on the audience?
  3. What other information is presented with the data?
  4. How does the site provide context?
  5. Are there narratives surrounding the dataset?

Section 3: Methods

  1. What is the method used to collect the data?
  2. Does the data claim to be complete or comprehensive? How do you know?
  3. If surveys or other opt-in methods are used, how many surveys or participants? How did they ensure sampling? Who was excluded?
  4. How might the method and motivations introduce bias?

Section 4: Currency and Completeness

  1. How old is the data and how often is it updated?
  2. What are the geographic or temporal constraints on the data? Do they seem reasonable? What other kinds of constraints are there on the data?
  3. What kind of documentation is provided for the data?
  4. What information is missing from the dataset? What else would it be helpful to know?
  5. What other sources exist for data on this issue?
  6. Do these other sources have similar numbers? If not, why do you think that is?

Section 5: Bringing in additional context

  1. What surprised you about this data?
  2. What frustrated you about this data?
  3. What do you think the most important takeaway is from your exploration of this dataset?
  4. Are there other kinds of data or information that would be helpful in understanding this dataset?
  5. Think back to your previous history or theory classes – which theories or readings can help you understand the issues raised by this dataset?