Data is the foundation upon which critical insights are made — whether you are working in a doctor’s office, a political news room, a startup, a science laboratory, or even a University classroom. Considering the importance of data to our everyday lives, being able to interpret and communicate data in a way that informs, compels or reassures is a core personal and professional skill.
For data to have an impact, it has to be presented as more than a set of numbers. Good, useful data needs to be organized and delivered within a coherent story. But what makes a good data story? Purdue’s Data Storytelling courses prepare professionals to build data stories that are effective, exciting, and capable of offering innovative solutions to a wide range of issues.
The Data Storytelling Certificate
The Data Storytelling Certificate program is a series of four courses available 100% online. The courses combine elements of rhetoric, data science, visualization and storytelling to form a cohesive and unique plan of study. Each of the 4 courses are subdivided into 6 modules. The first course, Data Storytelling 101, is free for students who also register for a paid course.
Students can register for and complete the data storytelling courses individually or purchase and complete all four to earn a Data Storytelling Certificate from Purdue. Data Storytelling 101 is a free course that must be taken before you start any of the other paid courses.
Data Storytelling Courses Available
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Register for the Full Certificate
Data Storytelling 101 offers an introduction to the concept of Data Storytelling, why it matters, and how it can transform the results of your research into impactful narratives through which your audience learns new things, remembers important findings and then acts on them. This course must be taken before you start any of the other paid courses.
- Provide examples and justify all core techniques in storytelling, including challenging prior assumptions, providing alternative explanations, balancing timing versus immediacy, and transforming each story into a teachable moment.
Data Storytelling 101 is an introduction course that is required prior to taking the remaining three courses. Students do not individually register for the Data Storytelling course but must register for one or all of the remaining three courses. Once registered for any other course, the student will also receive notification for access to Data Storytelling 101.
This course teaches students how to think about research – from data collection to data analysis to reporting results – as a narrative process. Rooted in basic statistics, the course provides students who have some numeric literacy a clear and direct path for advancing from reportable results to stories with impact. Students will especially learn how to construct numeric stories that demonstrate causality.
- Enumerate and defend the core relationships between research design and story-building, as well as define a valid causal inference and possible fallacies.
- Generate hypotheses based on data, explain how the hypotheses could be tested, and show how to translate different experimental designs and data pools into stories
This course provides key strategies for visualizing results and enhancing the visual communication of data stories, followed by a deeper dive into how to go from analysis of results to a compelling story enhanced with visuals.
- Create specific data visualizations that carry forward casual narratives, such as stacked bar charts, time series, and multidimensional causal chains, using effective and recognized visual and charting building blocks.
- Become familiar with how to avoid common pitfalls in designing visual content with narrative goals.
- Identify story elements that map onto the five narrative techniques learned and demonstrate through written compositions the ability to use them effectively.
In this course, students learn how to create data stories that use ethical research and protect basic human rights: autonomy, fairness, trust, beneficence, and non-malevolence.
- Define and use appropriate checks and reasoning processes for ensuring data transparency, validity, and ethical use.
- Identify the effect of a story by the amount of belief change it induces in an audience, determine the threshold of significance for various audiences, and use the amount and type of learning for each story to predict the degree to which it could be an actionable story or not.
Who Should Enroll
This course is designed for professionals who use data in their daily lives and for professionals looking to become more effective data communicators. Being able to effectively communicate, or tell stories, about data is a key skill for:
- Communication professionals
- PR professionals
- Academic researchers
- Scientific researchers
- STEM professionals and students
- Business analysts
- Professionals whose tasks include sharing data through presentations, emails, flyers, and other written/visual materials
Students are not expected to know a programming language. An understanding of basic statistics is helpful but not required.
About the Instructor
Dr. Sorin Adam Matei is Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of Communication in the Brian Lamb School of Communication. His research studies the relationship between information technology, group behavior, and social structures. He is known for spearheading innovative research projects on Wikipedia, social media cognition and emotion, and ethics in Big Data. He has been awarded numerous grants and has published nine books as well as dozens of journal articles in publications like The Journal of Communication and Communication Research.