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Sifting Data

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image CHAPTER OVERVIEW

Unit 14.1 Concepts used in information management
Unit 14.2 Practical Assessment Task (PAT) overview
Unit 14.3 Sifting data
Unit 14.4 Processing data
Unit 14.5 Presenting data

image At the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Understand data versus information.
  • Describe the problem-solving steps.
  • Explain how to gather data and information from different sources.
  • Understand the difference between information and knowledge.
  • Understand the importance of questionnaires and surveys.
  • Sift out data.
  • Process data.
  • Present the data in the form of graphs or a report.

INTRODUCTION

We are bombarded with a large amount of information on a daily basis. This information comes in many different forms. In order to gain knowledge and understanding, you need to know how to manage this information.

Information management (IM) is the process of gathering, selecting, processing and then presenting the information to people. In this chapter, we will look at data versus information, and how to understand a problem or task, as well as the importance of questionnaires. Lastly, we will look at different information sources and data-gathering tools.

UNIT
14.1   Concepts used in information management

The information management process is used in every environment; be it at school or in a business. This process is used to determine if set goals are being achieved, or whether or not a company is making a profit. Managing information can be broken down into the following three steps:

1. Inputs

2. Processing

3. Outputs

Data is an example of input. In Chapter 1, we looked at data and information. You learned that data is raw, unorganised numbers, signals, or facts and by processing this data, it becomes information. Information consists of facts and numbers that have been organised so that they are useful for people.

image Case Study Tracking class performance

For example, if the Mathematics teacher wanted to see how well the current class is performing compared to last year’s class, she might ask the school’s database to convert its data into averages for the two years. That way, many pages of data are converted into two numbers that can be compared easily. Similarly, the report you receive at the end of each school year takes all the data that the teachers collected throughout the year and turns that data into a single report that you can use to measure your performance.

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Figure 14.1: Data converted into information

The information management process in the Practical Assessment Task (PAT) can be broken down into the following phases:

  • Phase 1 – Inputs: This phase is characterised by the gathering of quality information. For example, you have to research a specific topic. At this phase, you will have to create questions that identify what problems you will encounter with this topic. This will help you to understand the kind of quality information for which you will need to ask. After identifying the problems, you will need to get the relevant data and information from different sources. This could be in the form of printed media, or searching for information on the internet that you learned about in Chapter 6.
  • Phase 2 – Processing: After gathering all the data (inputs), you will need to process it. You must understand what the information is and you will have to find solutions to the problems that you identified in Phase 1. For example, if you used a questionnaire, you will need to use a computer application like a spreadsheet to process the data and analyse the information.
  • Phase 3 – Outputs: The last phase involves presenting that analysed information in the form of a report or presentation. Therefore, you will need to apply what you learned in word processing, spreadsheets and presentations in order to make the information understandable to other people.

UNIT
14.2   Practical Assessment Task (PAT) overview

Before you can start a research project, such as the PAT, you must understand what the task is about. The purpose of the PAT is to test:

1. Your information management skills

2. Your application skills (to produce quality outputs using what you learned during the year)

Take note that the PAT is an important component in your year’s marks. You need to complete the PAT on time; otherwise, it will affect your overall results.

TECHNIQUES USED IN INFORMATION MANAGEMENT

There are different techniques used in the information management process. These techniques include identifying the task definition and information sources.

The PAT is usually broken up into three phases:

  • Phase 1 (Term 2): Understanding the task, using information-gathering tools and using questionnaires to obtain data (input).
  • Phase 2 (Term 3): Processing the data that you obtained in Phase 1, including using the knowledge you acquired earlier in the year (i.e. using spreadsheets) (processing).
  • Phase 3 (Term 4): Presenting the information that you analysed in Phase 2 in the form of presentations or reports (output).
UNDERSTANDING THE TASK

First of all, you need to understand what the topic is about, as well as what the task requires you to do.

It is important to manage your data and information effectively. You should ensure that you have a good filing structure.

CREATING A GOOD FILING STRUCTURE

To make your life easier, create folders and sub-folders to store the data and information according to the three phases. Make sure you name all the folders and sub-folders correctly so that it saves you time and effort.

You can name the main folder using your name and surname, and name the three sub-folders Phase 1, 2 and 3, as shown below:

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Figure 14.2: Folder structure
TASK DEFINITION

The task definition given by the PAT will not explain the task in much depth. You will be required to interpret, as well as apply the instructions and problem definition given in the PAT.

It is important that you develop your own task definition written in your own words. When developing your own task definition, you can expand on the definition of the task by using mind maps or bulleted lists.

An example of a task definition is shown below:

I am doing this investigation to report to <insert target audience> about <insert PAT topic>.

I will find information on <insert PAT topic>.

I will use the following <source> <information-gathering tools> and create questionnaires to conduct interviews.

I will also use the internet to help me find more information.

After I have received all the data, I will use spreadsheets to process and analyse the data so that it converts to meaningful information.

Using this information, I will then create a report. I will also use the questionnaire answers to create a report using a word processor.

Lastly, I will translate the information into a slide presentation to show my <insert target audience>.

Figure 14.3: An example of a task definition

A PAT project requires you to think and apply your own creativity. When you are given a PAT project and before you can even start with Phase 1, you need to think of the following:

1. Read the PAT task scenario.

2. Write down what your initial thoughts are about the scenario.

3. Jot down the information that is given and required.

4. Identify a focus area that is related to the scenario.

5. Write down the possible sub-topics.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Problem solving is the process of looking at a situation and finding exactly what the problem is, what the causes of this problem are, possible solutions, or how the problem can be removed.

In any problem or scenario where a decision must be made, there are steps that you can follow. The problem-solving process can be broken down into the following five steps:

1. Identify the problem

2. Understand the problem

3. Gather information

4. Find a strategy

5. Implement the strategy

You can ask yourself the following questions when identifying a problem:

1. What is the problem?

2. Is it my problem?

3. It is worth solving?

After defining the problem or task, you need to think about how to take the process further. You need to decide on how you will take on the task. The best way to do this is by finding the information. To get the information, you must ask yourself questions, such as:

  • What, when, where and why?
  • If, what if and how?

We just spoke about problem solving in general. In Phase 1 of the PAT, you need to identify the task that is given to you and set questions in order to help you investigate the task efficiently.

When setting questions, keep the following in mind:

  • Questions can be arranged according to sub-topics.
  • You can write down all your questions and then later categorise them according to their sub-topics.
  • Questions can be arranged into levels and when sorting out your questions, you can sort them according to the question level.

Table 14.1: Sorting questions into levels

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INFORMATION SOURCES

Once you have an understanding of the task and have developed the task definition, you will need to gather data and information. In this phase, you must consult several types of information sources to understand the subject better.

Information can be gathered using the following sources:

  • Electronic media: Web pages, e-books, the internet, online books and encyclopaedias
  • Printed media: Books, encyclopaedias, journals and magazines
  • People: Surveys, interviews and questionnaires
  • Other sources: Social media and your own knowledge

Table 14.2: The different types of information-gathering sources

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MORE ABOUT INFORMATION-GATHERING SOURCES

In the PAT, you will usually be given the instructions to conduct a survey or questionnaire where you must interview people. They will answer the questions that you set in the questionnaire and you will then collect all the questionnaires and use the information gathered from the questionnaires for an important task when completing the PAT.

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Figure 14.3: Example of a questionnaire

The following are tips on how to create questionnaires; whether it is on a Word document, or using an application, such as Google Forms:

  • Try using existing questionnaires and adapt the questions to better suit the information for which you are looking
  • Limit them to Yes/No questions
  • Make sure that the response options make sense
  • Ask questions in a logical order
  • Ask one thing at a time
  • Look for people who are actually willing to share information
  • Make sure that the questions are short, clear and to the point
  • Define difficult terms or spell out abbreviations
  • Remember that the way you interview the respondent will determine the type of information gathered, the quality of the information and how much information you can gather.

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LEARN ABOUT INFORMATION GATHERING TOOLS

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Saving your documents

Always save copies of everything and remember to save all your documents in a good file structure. Another thing to note is that web pages should be saved in a folder and must be named “web pages”.

image Activity 14.1

This activity is broken down into three sections (Sections A, B and C).

SECTION A

1. Use the instructions in the PAT and create a folder structure. Use what you have learned so far to create a folder structure.

2. Open Word.

3. Create a word-processing document.

4. Name this document: PAT Phase1.

5. Use the heading: Task definition.

6. Using the topic given below, create a task definition in the PATPhase1 document.

Conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time in nature or appreciate her beauty, everyone needs access to food, clothing, medicine, clean air and water, a variety of other resources you upon everyone’s best interest to try to conserve natural systems.

Your school wants to inform learners about conservation issues, the importance of conservation and create an awareness to address these issues. The school management team wants you to investigate a conservation issue that may interest you. They also want a formal report on the investigation which they can use in their awareness campaign. The investigation should address a conservation issue/problem, the impact thereof, possible solutions and the role learners could play or any other interesting facts and statistics that will inform learners about this issue.

(Extract from question paper DBE/PAT 2014)

7. Create a sub-folder called Task Definition in the Phase 1 folder.

8. Save the Word document in the sub-folder.

9. Close the Word document.

SECTION B

1. In pairs, brainstorm headings that you could use for the topic. Write down a list of questions that can be applied to each heading.

2. Open the PAT Phase1 document. Choose the headings that you think will help you complete this project. Transfer these headings and questions into the PAT Phase 1 document.

3. Save the document.

SECTION C

1. Open another Word document.

2. Create a table. It should look similar to this:

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3. Transfer the questions that you developed in the previous section to this table.

4. Indicate the information source to answer each question.

5. Briefly explain why you think this is the best-suited information source for that specific question.

6. Save the document with the name: Phase1Information.

7. Save it in the correct sub-folder.

UNIT
14.3   Sifting data

The information management process has three phases. This section will focus on the second phase, which is sifting the data that was received or obtained from the first phase.

INFORMATION VERSUS KNOWLEDGE

You have learned about data and information. But now, what about knowledge? How are data, information and knowledge related? It is simple: knowledge is the information that a person has collected in order to make an analysis. Let’s learn more about how we will be using knowledge in Phase 2 of the PAT.

QUESTIONNAIRES AND SURVEYS

The PAT usually requires you to conduct a survey using a questionnaire to gather your input data. This is a crucial element, because it is here, where data is processed into meaningful information. Remember, bad data = bad information. You need the data obtained from the surveys and questionnaires to input into the spreadsheet application.

SIFTING INFORMATION

Before you can start with sifting information, you need to use information-gathering tools to find data. After you have obtained all the data from the different information sources, then only can you look at which type of data is relevant and which is not.

If you have documents in an electronic format, you can use an application, such as a word processor or PDF reader to highlight important information.

When you start with finding information for your PAT, you will probably notice that there are many websites from which you can obtain information.

However, you need to go through all the available information. From there, you need to choose the information best suited to your topic. In the PAT, the instructions given will give you an indication of what the main objective of the project or task is. The sub-headings that you choose will usually indicate what information is useful. The processing of finding this relevant information is called sifting information.

image   Activity 14.2

1. Briefly explain the difference between information and knowledge.

2. Do you think questionnaires are important in the PAT?

3. Differentiate between a questionnaire and survey.

UNIT
14.4   Processing data

Data manipulation is the process where data is changed to make it easier to understand or read. The third phase of the PAT focuses on processing and using the data that is sifted in Phase 2. This section will look at how to use data manipulation, data processing and then finally, presenting the information.

KNOWLEDGE VERSUS INSIGHT/DECISION MAKING

Knowledge is the information that people collect in order to make an analysis. Decision making (wisdom) is when people put everything together and actually do something about it.

An example of decision making is when Teacher A realises that her learners are struggling with certain sections in the curriculum, especially in Term 2. This is when she needs to use this information and plan on how to remedy the situation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION MANIPULATION

In order to manipulate the information that you have gathered, you can do the following:

  • Identifying the core meaning, which means to identify the most important points of the information that you collected.
  • Summarising the information in your own words and then adding your own conclusions or opinions.
  • Using graphs, tables and illustrations to show the information you collected visually.

Table 14.3: Processing data and information

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For data to be manipulated, it needs to be sorted and grouped so that the next person can understand what it means. This can be done using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are extremely useful in sorting out data and making it look more understandable.

Microsoft Excel is an excellent spreadsheet program that allows the user to store, organise, sort and analyse information.

DATA HANDLING USING A SPREADSHEET

The results that you got from the questionnaires are a small sample of the responses that you can analyse on a spreadsheet. Unfortunately, the reality is that when it comes to data handling, people usually sit with hundreds and thousands of data items that they need to analyse.

With your PAT, however, you are only using a small sample of data to show that you are capable of processing much larger samples. At this stage, the questions that you come across when dealing with data handling would be as follows:

  • How many?
  • What is the most popular?
  • What is the least popular?
  • How many more than?
  • What is the average?

PROCESSING DATA USING A SPREADSHEET

One of the best attributes of a spreadsheet program is that it can do all the calculations for you by using formulas. This application is like a calculator and can add, multiply, subtract and even divide. We will now learn about the basics of handling data using a spreadsheet.

MATHEMATICAL OPERATORS

Microsoft Excel uses the standard mathematics signs, such as the plus sign (+), minus sign (–), an asterisk to multiply (*) and a forward slash when dividing (/).

In Excel, all formulas begin with a sign.

You can also use the formulae and functions in Excel to help you process data. You will have seen most of these functions in action in your practical lessons on Excel, however, a list of basic functions is given below:

  • SUM calculates the total of a range of numxbers
  • AVERAGE gives the average of a range of values
  • MIN returns the minimum value in a list of values
  • MAX returns the maximum value in a list of values
  • COUNT counts the numxbers in a list of values

Although these functions let you interpret large sets of data, it is not very good for visualising the data. For that, you can use charts and graphs, which will be explained in the next section.

After you have gathered the information, you need to transfer the data to an Excel spreadsheet. From there, you should use the COUNTIF function to count the numxber of answers for each question.

image   Guided Activity 14.1

1. Open the workbook: SurveyData.xlsx containing the answers obtained from a target audience.

2. Create a new table with headings for each answer.

3. Use the COUNTIF function to count the numxber of times a specific answer was given.

4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for the answers obtained from any other respondents. You will then get a sheet with valuable information.

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Figure 14.4: Using the COUNTIF function in Excel

The information that you get after using the COUNTIF function allows you to use proper figures to answer the initial sub-heading questions.

UNIT
14.5   Presenting data

After you have analysed the data, you need to put it into a visual form so that the target audience can understand the results better. This is usually done in the form of graphs, tables and reports. In this section, we will look at ways in which to visualise information.

GRAPHS AND TABLES

There are different types of charts and you can choose which of them best shows the information. The line graph, bar graph and histogram, pie chart and Cartesian graphs are the four most commonly used graphs.

Table 14.4: Application for the most common graphs

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It is not always wise to put the graph on the same sheet as the data. It makes it cramped and might not be the easiest for a person to understand. Rather put all the graphs on the next sheet. It will make it easier for the PAT assessor to understand the information.

If you are unsure about what chart to choose, you can always go to the Recommended Charts tab that suggests the different types of charts based on the data.

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Figure 14.5: The Recommended Charts tab

REPORTS

A report is another way of presenting information. It is a document that contains relevant information in an organised format. It helps us to clearly state the problem, the solution that was implemented to fix the problem, as well as how effective the problem-solving solution was.

A report consists of the following sections:

  • Introduction: The introduction is used to state the purpose of the report and provide background on the issue. It is important that you make use of your knowledge on the subject to provide a clear description of the problem that has occurred and the solution that was implemented.
  • Body: The body is used to describe the effect of the solution that was implemented. This can include a database containing all the data regarding the solution to the problem. However, simply supplying the data is not sufficient. You also need to process and analyse the data into useful information. The information should then be presented clearly and to the point. This can be done by extracting the core meaning of the data and writing it in your own words. You can make use of graphs and tables to help simplify the information.
  • Conclusion: This section is used to indicate whether or not the solution was a success and if any other solutions might be needed. If the solution was not successful, you need to include which steps you are planning to follow in order to make sure that the problem is resolved.
  • Bibliography/References: It is important to always reference the information that you use in your report. It shows the evidence of where you got the information from, how recent it is, the numxber of sources you used and if plagiarism was committed. You need to use a fixed method to correctly cite your references.

A reference list is a list of sources that were quoted in the report. A bibliography is a list of sources that were used for the report. There are different ways to reference; however, the most common method is the Harvard referencing technique and the American Psychological Association (APA) technique.

Always remember that it is important to draft the report as soon as possible. This is to ensure that you include all the details that you have observed. The longer you wait, the better the chance of forgetting something really important.

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LEARNING ABOUT REFERENCING STYLES

Have a look at these videos to understand these two techniques a bit better:

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Harvard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RVrhlMUaS8

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APA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlOIOoMhDKc

PLAGIARISM

When writing a report, plagiarism is something that is really frowned upon. You learned about plagiarism earlier in this book.

Just to refresh your memory, plagiarism is a reproduction of someone’s work as your own, without acknowledging the original source. This can be done in the form of directly using someone’s findings (i.e. wording, sentences, or even the whole paragraph), pictures, etc., without referencing the original source.

When writing a report, make sure that you do not knowingly, or even unknowingly, publish or use someone else’s work without acknowledging that person. To prevent plagiarism, you need to plan everything before drafting the report. Make sure you understand what the topic is about and how you are going write the report.

It is extremely important to always hand in your own work. Therefore, when handing in your PAT, it is a good idea to hand in a declaration of authenticity, which indicates that you have not copied your work from someone else.

COPYRIGHT

Copyright, as the name suggests, is the legal right of someone to make copies of something. It is a legal right originally given to creators and they can decide who and under what conditions, a person or company may copy their invention.

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Something to know

The PAT guidelines give you strict instructions on what the font sizes of the main headings and body text should be. If not stipulated, however, you can use a font size of 16 pt or 18 pt for the main headings and a font size of 11 pt for the body text.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Intellectual property is a term used to create something new or original. It can come in several forms. Examples could include any of the following:

  • A new invention
  • Design
  • Brand
  • Book or journal article

Using someone else’s intellectual property without their permission is considered to be a crime.

SLIDE SHOW PRESENTATION

The slide show that you need to develop for the PAT covers the same information as the report that you compiled. However, the presentation only deals with the key points and looks at the information very briefly. So, when creating a presentation, you need to think about which points are the most important.

FINALISING THE PAT

When you hand in your PAT, make sure you take note of the following:

1. Check that you have done everything that was required of you by using the marking checklist.

2. Proofread your work and make sure that your work does not have spelling and grammatical errors. If you find errors, fix them.

3. Check that all the sources have been referenced and cited properly.

4. Check the layout of the documents; how the documents look actually makes a big difference. Make sure the layout, fonts and graphs all look visually appealing.

image Activity 14.3

1. List two different types of information sources.

2. Illustrate the difference between wisdom and knowledge by using an example.

3. Study the information presented in the following graph:

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a. Describe what the graph measures.

b. Name the appliance with the least total usage.

c. After the refrigerator and the geyser, name the appliance that is used most on week days?

d. State why most appliances are used more during weekends than during the week.

e. What advice will you give to households if they want to save electricity? Motivate your answer.

f. List three different types of actions that you could perform on data to extract information, in other words, help to interpret it, or make sense of it.

REVISION ACTIVITY

1. In the 2018 PAT, Grade 12 learners were required to investigate the topic of fake news.

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Source: http://ecdoe.co.za/documents/learners/self-study-guides/pat-cat-english

2. Use the information above and the following outline to write a task description for the PAT.

I am doing this investigation to report to <insert target audience> about <insert PAT topic>.

I will find information on <insert PAT topic>.

I will use the following <source> <information-gathering tools> and create questionnaires to conduct interviews.

I will also use the internet to help me find more information.

After I have received all the data, I will use spreadsheets to process and analyse the data so that it converts to meaningful information.

Using this information, I will then create a report. I will also use the questionnaire answers to create a report using a word processor.

Lastly, I will translate the information into a slide presentation to show my <insert target audience>.

     Replace all the phrases between angle brackets <…> with suitable words that will match the topic of fake news. (6)

3. Thandolwethu is doing research into healthy eating habits amongst the learners in her class. She conducted a survey by asking each learner to pick their favourite vegetable from a list that she gave them. The numxber of votes that each vegetable received were tallied up. She then drew a graph to illustrate the votes for each vegetable.

The following table shows the results that she obtained:

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a. Use this scenario to explain the difference between data and information.(4)

b. Thandolwethu conducted a survey to obtain her results. Explain the difference between a survey and a questionnaire. (4)

c. What sort of graph (chart) would best illustrate the above results? (1)

d. Use Microsoft Excel to draw a graph (chart) of Thandolwethu’s results. Make sure the graph is easy to understand. You should not include the TOTAL on your graph. (4)

e. List two pieces of information that Thandolwethu obtained from her results. (2)

4. Chloe used a questionnaire as part of her PAT. Some of the questions had “Strongly Agree”, “Agree”, “Disagree”, “Strongly Disagree” as options for her respondents to select. She captured the responses from each person in a spreadsheet. Which spreadsheet function should she use to determine the following?

a. The numxber of respondents who answered each question (1)

b. The most popular response for each question based on the numxber of responses (1)

c. The numxber of respondents who answered “Strongly Agree” for each question (1)

5. List the four main sections of a report and state briefly what should be included in each section. (4)

6. Ntombikayise has copied and pasted three paragraphs of text taken from an online publication, into her report.

a. She did not acknowledge the original writer of the text in her report. What is this known as? (1)

b. How could she use the information without making the mistake mentioned in (a)? (2)

[TOTAL: 31]

AT THE END OF THE CHAPTER

Use the checklist to make sure that you worked through the following and that you understand it.

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