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Unstructured Data Analytics for Policy


Units: 6


Companies, governments, and other organizations now collect massive amounts of data such as text, images, audio, and video. How do we turn this heterogeneous mess of data into actionable insights? A common problem is that we often do not know what structure underlies the data ahead of time, hence the data often being referred to as “unstructured”. This course takes a practical approach to unstructured data analysis via a two-step approach:

  1. We first examine how to identify possible structure present in the data via visualization and other exploratory methods.
  2. Once we have clues for what structure is present in the data, we turn toward exploiting this structure to make predictions.

Many examples are given for how these methods help solve real problems faced by organizations. There is a final project in this course which must address a policy question.

How this course differs from 95-865 “Unstructured Data Analysis”: 95-865 emphasizes more of the technical skill development (assessed through two in-class exams involving coding), and does not have any sort of policy focus. 94-775 has a policy-focused final project instead of a final exam. 94-775 does not require cloud computing (part of 95-865 requires the use of Google Colab). Despite these differences, there is heavy material overlap between 94-775 and 95-865.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students are expected to have developed the following skills:

  • Recall and discuss common methods for exploratory and predictive analysis of unstructured data
  • Write Python code for exploratory and predictive data analysis
  • Apply unstructured data analysis techniques discussed in class to solve problems faced by governments and companies

Prerequisites Description

(90819 or 95888) and (95791)