What Is Data Extraction?

What is data extraction? Data extraction is exactly what it sounds like—culling through your spreadsheet to pull out specific data for a new column or spreadsheet, following the standard data entry and scraping processes. For example, if you have a dataset around population density, you may want to extract cities with more than 10,000 people per sq. mile and only those that are in California so that you can analyze the demographic makeup of those cities. Sure, if you’re working with a small dataset, you might be able to get by with copy/paste, but extracting data  by hand can quickly become overwhelming. Data extraction is most efficient when you’re able to define the data you need, but use efficient, machine learning software to retrieve it. 

It’s no surprise that many businesses use Excel as a data extraction tool to extract data. In order to extract data from Excel columns, you can use some combination of the VLOOKUP, MATCH, and INDEX functions. The VLOOKUP function is perhaps best equipped for data extraction, allowing you to look up and retrieve data from a specific column. The MATCH and INDEX function work somewhat inversely; MATCH finds the position of a given value, while INDEX retrieves the value from a known position. All three are helpful to know (and relatively easy to learn) in order to extract data from Excel. But is Excel the best system for extracting data in the modern landscape?