Cool Tools: Tableau

An example of a Tableau map by the author; the title at the top reads "Does Rising Tuition Influence the Degrees Students Seek?" On the right, there is a color chart indicating that the more yellow the color, the fewer the number of students per capita and the more red the color, the higher the number of students per capita. The top half of the image shows a map of the United States, each state in varying shades of red and yellow, depending on the number of enrolled undergraduate students. The bottom is a bar graph with, on the left side, the number of associate's degrees per state and, on the right, the relative expense of tuition in each state.
I explored the relationship between tuition costs and degree selection using Tableau. Full-resolution version here.

Last Friday, the DWRL hosted another workshop in preparation for the digitally accessible map we plan to create for our diverse student body. In conjunction with a discussion of collecting and analyzing data, Amy Tuttle provided an excellent lesson on Tableau, an online service that allows users to re-present data in creative ways, like this visualization of the relationship between the numbers of students enrolled and doctoral degrees earned by Reinhard Mueller, one of our staff members.

A very helpful tutorial by Tableau lays out the features of the service. First, download either your own data set or, to get your feet wet, use a data set provided by Tableau under the “Resources” tab. Then, upload that excel file to Tableau and the rest is as easy as click and drag.

On the left, there are various data sets under the tab "sheets." The mouse is shown dragging one of these data sets into the empty space on the right under the title "World Bank CO2."
Select your data set on the left, then drag it into the window on the right.

Once the contents of the data set appear, there are several options under “Dimensions” and “Measures” on the left-hand side that will allow Tableau to make sense of that data in a graph. By dragging and dropping “Country Code,” for example, a map appears with dots signifying the information in the excel sheet. You can create more than geographic maps. Tableau creates blocks, bubbles, bar graphs as well as the more familiar scatter and line graphs, among others others — and you have control over colors to draw a reader’s attention to particular trends. In my graph above, for example, the redder a state is, the greater the per capita number of undergraduate students; conversely, the yellower a state, the fewer the per capita number of undergraduate students.

On the left, there are two tabs called "Dimensions" and "Measures." After dragging and dropping the "Country Code" under "Measure" into the middle column, the sheet becomes a geographic map of the world. The map here shows blue dots in various cities around the world, signifying the levels of CO2.
The blue dots on this map indicate carbon dioxide levels at various points around the globe.

Tableau offers users a unique opportunity to create maps and graphs that would typically require a tremendous amount of manual work to produce. By clicking and dragging, Tableau allows users to convey complex data sets into accessible visual information.

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