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Futzing and Moseying: Interviews with Professional Data Analysts on Exploration Practices

  • Author(s): Alspaugh, Sara
  • Zokaei, Nava
  • Liu, Andrea
  • Jin, Cindy
  • Hearst, Marti A
  • et al.
Abstract

We report the results of interviewing thirty professional data analysts working in a range of industrial, academic, and regulatory environments. This study focuses on participants' descriptions of exploratory activities and tool usage in these activities. Highlights of the findings include: distinctions between exploration as a precursor to more directed analysis versus truly open-ended exploration; confirmation that some analysts see "finding something interesting" as a valid goal of data exploration while others explicitly disavow this goal; conflicting views about the role of intelligent tools in data exploration; and pervasive use of visualization for exploration, but with only a subset using direct manipulation interfaces. These findings provide guidelines for future tool development, as well as a better understanding of the meaning of the term "data exploration" based on the words of practitioners "in the wild."

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