Library Carpentry: Introduction to Data: Instructor Notes

Tips and Tricks, Common Problems, Items of Note

Making a handout

To make a handout for this lesson, adapt/print from

Jargon Busting

Requirements for this task are:

The purpose of this task is threefold:

It is important to note that no one is an expert in everything and the instructor will need help with describing certain terms. The instructor is encouraged to invite workshop attendees, instructors, and helpers to join in describing terms, phrases, or ideas as well.

When collating feedback on the main board/pad (if none are available, consider using the workshop collaborative document), one strategy is to organise the board from sad (on the left) to happy (on the right), then to locate the terms, phrases, or ideas offered by learners on that spectrum. This performs three functions:


Learning to program is like learning another language: you have to speak the computer’s language.

Use inclusive language when programming to create a welcoming environment.

Workshop attendees usually want to jump in right away and start learning a tool or approach. Intro to Data provides step by step foundational training to prepare learners for further Library Carpentry lessons.

Some tips as you learn:

Keyboard shortcuts are your friend. Sometimes using a shortcut vs programming is the best approach. Shortcuts allow you to save time in some cases. Using the workshop collaborative document, the instructor can ask workshop attendees to list their favorite shortcuts and/or shortcuts that may not be widely known.

Most of Library, Data, and Software Carpentry lessons are based on open source tools with the exception of MATLAB. This is also the case with open formats vs proprietary formats. The instructor can use this as an opportunity to quiz the workshop attendees on what is an open format/source tool versus proprietary and to list examples (e.g. PDF, DOC).

Markdown or .md files are example of machine readable files that are also human readable. Markdown is a markup language that allows you to format content using notation which can be read by certain tools and services such as GitHub. HackMD is a helpful tool to explore Markdown together with a cheatsheet. In some cases, there are online tools that help you generate Markdown like this CSV to Markdown table generator. Pandoc is a helpful tool for converting Markdown to other formats like PDF.

When you start a project, how do you organize your files? Recommendations:

Regular Expressions

You may find it useful to use slides to work through episode four. Before starting the exercise, encourage learners to work with pen and paper, explain that with regex there are sometimes multiple answers to the same question (that is, some regex is perfect and some does the job given the likely data structures we use) and point them towards places to test their regex. Regxr is a regular expression tester with syntax highlighting, PHP / PCRE & JS Support, contextual help, cheat sheet, reference, and searchable community patterns. Other regular expression tools include regex101, rexegper, myregexp, or whichever service you prefer. Also point them towards the quiz (episode five and six or this quiz and answers) as something they may move onto if they they finish the exercises early or look at after the workshop.

General notes on Introduction to Data

Two sets of sticky notes (ideally one red and one green) are required to run a Library Carpentry workshop. Learners should be encouraged to put a red sticky note on the back of their laptop (raised like a flag) if they need help, and to put the green sticky note on the back of their laptop if they don’t need help.

At each break, ask learners to provide feedback on their learning experience since the last break. They should do this by writing one thing that didn’t go well on their red sticky note and and one thing that did go well on their green sticky note. Collect these sticky notes, keep them organised so you know which section of the lesson they pertain to, and collate them after the workshop. Matters arising should be raised as Github issues for the relevant lesson.

Note that whilst red and green sticky notes are a common combination in The Carpentries (with the green sticky note used to indicate that the attendee is fine and for positive feedback), this is the worst colour combination for colourblind/deficient instructors and helpers scanning a room to see who needs help (1 in 12 men are colour blind/deficient, 1 in 200 women). An alternative to using two colours is to use a white sticky note to indicate an attendee needs help (like a white flag) and a sticky note of any other colour to indicate that they don’t need help. For more information on designing for colourblindness/defiency see Oliver Daddow, ‘It’s time designing for the colour blind became a more integrated component of academic and media training’, LSE Impact Blog (2017).