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The starting point for this book was a research methods course I taught to political science students at Binghamton University at a time when analyzing data required the use of keypunch and punch-card counter sorter machines. I have taught the “methods” course many times since, each time adding more of the practical data analysis material presented in this book. From the students in these courses, I have learned what they find most perplexing and challenging about numbers, and they have challenged me to find better ways of presenting this material. Working on their “data profile” term papers, many students discovered datasets and data sources that I was not familiar with and that are cited throughout this book. Three students in my Quantitative Reasoning course contributed more directly:Molly Miles and Shannon Durocher found several errors in a late draft of the book, and Lesley Clements contributed the first draft of the chart shown in figure 3.12.

To prepare the tables and charts in this book, I acquired near mastery of the 2003 Microsoft Excel charting software and considerable experience with the 2007 version. Excel is much more powerful than a counter sorter, but the frustrations are the same. My masters in my quest to earn a black belt in Excel charting were the regular contributors to the microsoft.public.excel.charting newsgroup: Rob Bovey, Debra Dalgleish, Shane Devenshire, Bernard V Liengme,  Tushar Mehta, Jon Peltier, Andy Pope, and John Walkenbach. Over and over again they found solutions to what, for me, were the most unsolvable charting problems. Their replies to my inquiries—and those of thousands of novice and experienced charters—were often simple, direct, and quick, and always courteous.

I am deeply indebted to my colleagues for their encouragement and comments on the convention papers that led to this book and on the initial drafts of the manuscript: Jack Chizmar, Gary King, Nancy Lind, Milo Shields, Howard Wainer, Bill Wilkerson and, much more than a colleague, Patricia Klass. For their proofreading and editing of the manuscript I am indebted for the excellent contributions of three Illinois State graduate students: Jennifer Swanson, Zach Wolfe and Kara Bavery. And finally, for their professionalism, encouragement, and assistance, many thanks to Niels Aaboe, Catherine Forrest Getzie, and Asa Johnson at Rowman & Littlefield.