Integrating Statistics and Visualization: Case Studies of Gaining Clarity During Exploratory Data Analysis

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Ben Shneiderman
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Although both statistical methods and visualizations have been used by network analysts, exploratory data analysis remains a challenge. We propose that a tight integration of these technologies in an interactive exploratory tool could dramatically speed insight development. To test the power of this integrated approach, we created a novel social network analysis tool, SocialAction, and conducted four long-term case studies with domain experts, each working on unique data sets with unique problems. The structured replicated case studies show that the integrated approach in SocialAction led to significant discoveries by a political analyst, a bibliometrician, a healthcare consultant, and a counter-terrorism researcher. Our contributions demonstrate that the tight integration of statistics and visualizations improves exploratory data analysis, and that our evaluation methodology for long-term case studies captures the research strategies of data analysts.