Tidy Data and Organizational Research Methods

There are three characteristics described in the article Tidy Data written by Hadley Wickham that make up tidy data. To put it simply the article lists each out. The first principle of tidy data is that “each variable forms a column.” The second is that “each observation forms a row.” And lastly, “each type of observational unit forms a table.” This article was on the dense side, with more mathematical and statistical jargon than I’m used to seeing being a Humanities major. Seeing the examples used in last week’s class with death certificates and drawing up our own tidy data helped to visualize some details that make up tidy data. With tips on how to clean up a messy dataset and create tidy data in the first place, the article and last week’s guest presentation by Wendy Mann has laid a foundation for when I eventually will be collecting and recording data on my own.

“The tidy data standard has been designed to facilitate initial exploration and analysis of the data, and to simply the development of data analysis tools that work well together.”

Hadley Wickham, “Tidy Data”

Some of the best methods for organizing your research include creating tidy data and in general, keeping an organizational approach to every aspect of the research process. However, before even getting to a point where one is inputting data found there are some other organizational approaches to take. One of the best methods that I think for organizing your research, and use often, is creating an outline. This can be an outline for a paper, or for the process of research. It’s important to create a general timeline or figure out what smaller topics you might be delving into when doing research. Creating an outline can help guide you in the process of research, and if you feel yourself getting stuck or spiraling down a rabbit hole, you can always come back to it. Another organizational tip is to create citations for sources that you’ve utilized as you use them and save them someplace such as a word document. I’ve found when I’m completing research I have about twenty different tabs open with different journals, books, and scholarly articles. It’s not an efficient or organized way to go about research, and you don’t want to accidentally lose a source that you pulled information from. Instead using a word document to create citations and below provide some details of the source (or maybe the information that was helpful to your research) is a good way to keep on top of the citation process. Those are the two organizational methods that I utilize the most, and the outline especially helps to stay focused on my research.

I have not created by own data sets before, but I am excited to complete research and work on making a tidy dataset using the main principles of said concept. The article on tidy data itself took slow reading to comprehend, but when collecting my own data, I think it will be easier to organize my data by the definitions of variables, columns, etc. In previous classes, I’ve utilized the above-mentioned organizational methods when doing research, and I’ll be continuing those organizational methods as well as finding more ways to organize research that work well for me and my work process.


Wickham, H. (2014). Tidy data. Journal of statistical software59(1), 1-23.

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