Big Data in Small Slices: Data Visualization for Communicators  book cover
1st Edition

Big Data in Small Slices: Data Visualization for Communicators

ISBN 9781138910904
Published December 23, 2020 by Routledge
150 Pages

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Book Description

This book offers an engaging and accessible introduction to data visualization for communicators, covering everything from data collection and analysis to the creation of effective data visuals.  

Straying from the typical "how to visualize data" genre often written for technical audiences, Big Data in Small Slices offers those new to data gathering and visualization the opportunity to better understand data itself. Using the concept of the "data backstory," each chapter features discussions with experts, from marine scientists to pediatricians and city government officials, who produce datasets in their daily work. The reader is guided through the process of designing effective visualizations based on their data, delving into how datasets are produced and vetted, and how to assess their weaknesses and strengths, ultimately offering readers the knowledge needed to produce their own effective data visuals.  

This book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in data visualization and storytelling, from journalism and communications students to public relations professionals.

A detailed accompanying website features additional material for readers, including links to all the original datasets used in the text, at

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 - The Canary in the Coal Mine

Chapter 2 - Sea of Butterflies

Chapter 3 - Parasites and Armed Rebels

Chapter 4 - Open City, Open Data


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Dianne M. Finch-Claydon conducts data analysis and visualization workshops around the world and consults to clients on visualization projects. Publications include a chapter on data in The Golden Age of Data by Don Grady (Routlege, 2020) as well as stories produced for public radio, Bloomberg, and other news outlets on science and finance.


"Dianne combines deep expertise in computer science with her years as a journalist to write a compelling book about using data to tell stories. Written in a journalistic style (i.e. interesting and fun), she walks readers through the opportunities and challenges of big data sets. The book and accompanying website encourage readers to dig into the data and get their hands dirty, and help them feel safe and confident to experiment." – Karen Weintraub, Journalist at USA Today

"We live in an era when vast amounts of data are at journalists' fingertips, providing new opportunities for reporting and investigating. But making sense of that flood of data and communicating it to a general audience requires training. Dianne Finch's book provides a detailed, yet easy-to-use, guide for data visualization, and will be an excellent resource for both journalism teachers and students." – Sharon Weinberger, author of The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World

"This book will be an essential tool in training the future generation of communicators, including both journalists and scientists struggling to build their research programs in an impossibly vast sea of data." – Tim Ford, Professor and Chair of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences, UMass Lowell

"Life isn’t easily categorized, and Dianne Finch’s work on data visualization makes that abundantly clear. In the chapter on malaria, Dianne compellingly shows how charts and maps can guide a journalist to ask informed questions. She goes beyond parasites, insect vectors, and drugs used to treat the disease to illustrate the issues that seem unrelated to health at first glance but dramatically impact the delivery of help desperately needed. This guide to best practices in data visualization will help you tame the ominous-sounding Big Data – in small slices." – Jeff Porter, Missouri School of Journalism