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Two-Tip Tuesday: Getting the Most Out of Your Text Data in Minitab

Minitab CalculatorHave you ever collected data, and then when it comes time to analyze it, you wish you would have measured in different units, or combined date or time data into one column instead of several?

You probably know that Minitab’s Calculator (Calc > Calculator) is useful for performing arithmetic operations, such as dividing a column of data to give you radiuses rather than diameters, and subtracting or adding numeric amounts from groups of data.

However, you might be surprised to hear that the Minitab Calculator is just as useful with text-based data. For example, you might want to “subtract” extraneous text from a column of labels, or “divide” a column of long identification codes into its smaller, separate components.

Here are two helpful tips for how the Minitab Calculator can be used to refine the layout or format of your text data:

1. Isolate or Combine Individual Words in Text Data

Sometimes it’s helpful to extract individual words or characters from text data for use in isolation:

minitab worksheet

Isolate Critical Information After

In the worksheet on the left, the fourth character of the serial numbers denotes the production line that produced a particular television.  You can use the Calculator to create a column that lists only this value, and now it’s easy to group and analyze your data according to production line.

In other cases, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts:

Combine Data After

You can use the Calculator to create a new column that combines the individual month, day, and year columns you see above into a single cell.

2. Find and Replace Errors in Text Data

A consistent recording error doesn’t have to result in time-consuming corrections by hand:

Replace Incorrect Information Before Replace Incorrect Information After

A customer service operator who handles product returns has noted the incorrect year portion of the catalog code that is used to reference the item. With the Minitab Calculator, it’s easy to find all instances of the incorrect text and replace them with the correct year.

These are just a few of the useful functions included in Minitab’s Calculator. And while the list of available functions may be long, don't worry: the Calculator is used in essentially the same way, regardless of the function and whether or not you are using it for text or numeric data.

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