Assignment #2 (Due Jan 27)

The task in this assignment is to use an existing visualization tool to answer a specific question using data. You should maintain a web notebook that documents all the steps you performed, from start to finish, while creating the visualization. The goal of this assignment is not to develop a new visualization tool, but to understand better the process of creating the visualization.

Start by formulating the question:

Step 1.Pick a domain that you are interested in.
Some good possibilities might be crime in California, the physical properties of the elements, the types of stars, or the human genome. Feel free to use an example from your own research, but do NOT pick an example that you regularly already do.

Step 2. Pose a question that you would like to answer.
For example: How does crime rate vary with income and county? Is there a relationship between melting point and atomic number? Are the brightness and color of stars correlated? Are there different patterns of nucleotides in different regions in human DNA?

Step 3. Find a database that has the data you need to answer your question.
Look for databases in convenient formats such as Excel or a CSV file. The web contains a lot of raw data and we have collected some pointers to online databases:

Online Databases

You may need to iterate through these steps a few times. It may be challenging to find both an interesting question and a dataset that has the information that you need to answer that question.

After you have a question and a dataset, construct a visualization that provides a answer to your question. Think of a way to make the point as clearly as possible and use visualization techniques that effectively present the data. In this assignmnent, you should use existing visualization tools such as: charting in Excel; plotting using Matlab; slicing and dicing from Tableau; or Photoshop's image processing. If you need access to software, let us know and we will try to arrange it. Consider a secondary goal of this assignment to learn and evaluate a new visualization tool.

Before starting, right down the question clearly. And, as you go, maintain a web notebook of what you had to do to construct the visualization. Include in the notebook where you got the data, and documentation about the format of the dataset. Describe any transformations or rearrangements of the dataset that you needed to perform; in particular, describe how you got the data into the format needed by the visualization system. After you have constructed the visualization, write a caption and a paragraph describing the visualization, and how it answers the question you posed. Think of the figure, the caption and the text as material you might include in a research paper.

When you are done, send the URL of the web page to hanrahan at