2-for1 Week: Lisa R. Holliday on Data Cleaning and Fuzzy Matching

My name is Lisa R. Holliday, and I am a Data Architect with The Evaluation Group. Cleaning data is a large part of my job.  For studies that need to match participants’ names or IDs, it is critical to ensure that information is entered consistently from one data collection cycle to the next. However, depending on the data collection tools available, it’s not always possible to do this. Cleaning and matching data can be time-consuming.

I’ve found two useful tools that have helped to reduce the amount of time I spend working with these data and increased matching accuracy.

Rad Resource 1: FuzzyMatch Macro for Excel

FuzzyMatch is a free Excel macro available from the Mr.Excel message board. It creates three functions:

  1. FuzzyVlookup
  2. FuzzyHLookup
  3. FuzzyPercent

FuzzyVlookup and FuzzyHlookup look up values against a master list and suggest possible matches. FuzzyPercent allows you to assess the similarities between the proposed matches and the master list. In my testing, FuzzyMatch was able to correctly match values that differed by as many as nineteen characters in length.

One drawback to this macro is that it can be time-consuming to run. During testing, it took Excel approximately one minute to process 942 rows using FuzzyVlookup and FuzzyPercent concurrently. Additionally, the functions have volatile characteristics (they sometimes recalculate when you save the workbook). To avoid this, after running the functions, copy and paste the results as text.

This video demonstrates how to use FuzzyMatch.

Rad Resource 2: iugum Data Matching Software

This software performs much like the Excel macro, except it is faster and more user-friendly. There is a 14-day free trial available, and subscriptions run from $99 to $400. During testing, it matched over 8,000 rows of data in less than one minute. If unable to perform an exact match, iugum provides possible matches, and it is easy to accept or reject suggested matches. If you regularly clean data using a master list, this is a valuable tool.

This video provides an overview of iugum Data Matching Software.

We’re celebrating 2-for-1 Week here at aea365. With tremendous interest in the blog lately, we’ve had many authors eager to share their evaluation wisdom, so for one special week, readers will be treated to two blog posts per day! Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.



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