What is Data Cleaning?

Data cleaning is the process of preparing data for analysis by removing or modifying data that is incorrect, incomplete, irrelevant, duplicated, or improperly formatted.

This data is usually not necessary or helpful when it comes to analyzing data because it may hinder the process or provide inaccurate results. There are several methods for cleaning data depending on how it is stored along with the answers being sought.

Data cleaning is not simply about erasing information to make space for new data, but rather finding a way to maximize a data set’s accuracy without necessarily deleting information.

For one, data cleaning includes more actions than removing data, such as fixing spelling and syntax errors, standardizing data sets, and correcting mistakes such as empty fields, missing codes, and identifying duplicate data points. Data cleaning is considered a foundational element of the data science basics, as it plays an important role in the analytical process and uncovering reliable answers.

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Most importantly, the goal of data cleaning is to create data sets that are standardized and uniform to allow business intelligence and data analytics tools to easily access and find the right data for each query.

How Can I Use Data Cleaning?

Regardless of the type of analysis or data visualizations you need, data cleaning is a vital step to ensure that the answers you generate are accurate. When collecting data from several streams and with manual input from users, information can carry mistakes, be incorrectly inputted, or have gaps.

Data cleaning helps ensure that information always matches the correct fields while making it easier for business intelligence tools to interact with data sets to find information more efficiently. One of the most common data cleaning examples is its application in data warehouses.

See it in action:

A successful data warehouse stores a variety of data from disparate sources and optimizes it for analysis before any modeling is done. To do so, warehouse applications must parse through millions of incoming data points to make sure they’re accurate before they can be slotted into the right database, table, or other structure.

Organizations that collect data directly from consumers filling in surveys, questionnaires, and forms also use data cleaning extensively. In their cases, this includes checking that data was entered in the correct field, that it doesn’t feature invalid characters, and that there are no gaps in the information provided.

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