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1. Exploratory Data Analysis
1.3. EDA Techniques


Analysis Questions

EDA Questions Some common questions that exploratory data analysis is used to answer are:
  1. What is a typical value?
  2. What is the uncertainty for a typical value?
  3. What is a good distributional fit for a set of numbers?
  4. What is a percentile?
  5. Does an engineering modification have an effect?
  6. Does a factor have an effect?
  7. What are the most important factors?
  8. Are measurements coming from different laboratories equivalent?
  9. What is the best function for relating a response variable to a set of factor variables?
  10. What are the best settings for factors?
  11. Can we separate signal from noise in time dependent data?
  12. Can we extract any structure from multivariate data?
  13. Does the data have outliers?
Analyst Should Identify Relevant Questions for his Engineering Problem A critical early step in any analysis is to identify (for the engineering problem at hand) which of the above questions are relevant. That is, we need to identify which questions we want answered and which questions have no bearing on the problem at hand. After collecting such a set of questions, an equally important step, which is invaluable for maintaining focus, is to prioritize those questions in decreasing order of importance. EDA techniques are tied in with each of the questions. There are some EDA techniques (e.g., the scatter plot) that are broad-brushed and apply almost universally. On the other hand, there are a large number of EDA techniques that are specific and whose specificity is tied in with one of the above questions. Clearly if one chooses not to explicitly identify relevant questions, then one cannot take advantage of these question-specific EDA technqiues.
EDA Approach Emphasizes Graphics Most of these questions can be addressed by techniques discussed in this chapter. The process modeling and process improvement chapters also address many of the questions above. These questions are also relevant for the classical approach to statistics. What distinguishes the EDA approach is an emphasis on graphical techniques to gain insight as opposed to the classical approach of quantitative tests. Most data analysts will use a mix of graphical and classical quantitative techniques to address these problems.
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