Importing data into OpenRefine


Teaching: 10 min
Exercises: 5 min
  • How do I get data into OpenRefine?

  • Successfully import data into OpenRefine

Importing data

What kinds of data files can I import?

There are several options for getting your data set into OpenRefine. You can upload or import files in a variety of formats including:

  • TSV (tab-separated values)
  • CSV (comma-separated values)
  • Excel
  • JSON (javascript object notation)
  • XML
  • Google Spreadsheet

Create your first OpenRefine project (using provided data)

To import the data for the exercise below, follow the instructions in Setup to download the data and run OpenRefine. NOTE: If OpenRefine does not open in a browser window, open your browser and type the address to take you to the OpenRefine interface.

  1. Once OpenRefine is launched in your browser, click Create Project from the left hand menu and select Get data from This Computer
  2. Click Choose Files (or ‘Browse’, depending on your setup) and locate the file which you have downloaded called doaj-article-sample.csv
  3. Click Next >> - the next screen (see below) gives you options to ensure the data is imported into OpenRefine correctly. The options vary depending on the type of data you are importing.
  4. Click in the Character encoding box and set it to UTF-8 as it will ensure the special characters in the Author column are displaying correctly
  5. Ensure the first row is used to create the column headings by checking the box Parse next 1 line(s) as column headers
  6. OpenRefine will automatically select “Use character” to enclose cells containing column separators as this will place data in one cell where the values are enclosed in quotes from the source dataset
  7. Make sure the Parse cell text into numbers, dates, ... box is not checked, so OpenRefine doesn’t try to automatically detect numbers as it may cause errors such as confusion between American and British date formats
  8. The Project Name box in the upper right corner will default to the title of your imported file. Click in the Project Name box to give your project a different name, if desired.
  9. Once you are happy click the Create Project >> button at the top right of the screen. This will create the project and open it for you. Projects are saved as you work on them, there is no need to save copies as you go along.

Create project screen capture

To open an existing project in OpenRefine you can click Open Project from the main OpenRefine screen (in the left hand menu). When you click this, you will see a list of the existing projects and can click on a project’s name to open it.

Going Further

Key Points

  • Use the Create Project option to import data

  • You can control how data imports using options on the import screen

  • Several files types may be imported into OpenRefine.