Project Information

The final project’s aim is to create a self-contained, publicly accessible information visualization of a story contained within a data-set of your choice.

What does this entail?


Self-contained in this case means that your visualization can be viewed and understood independently.

  • viewed independently: you should not have to download specialized software to view the visualization (i.e. it is in a familiar  file format such as .png or .pdf).
  • understood independently: you do not have to read a meta-data file, your report or any other external source to understand the basic story your visualization is trying to convey. Links in the visualization to external sources can be present but really act as additional information for people who e.g. want to check your references or read further into the topic.

Publicly Accessible

Publicly available in this case means that your visualization can be viewed in a digital, online context.

It also means that your visualization can be shared on the Projects section of this website, which entails a Creative Commons or similar licence or a copyrighted visualization with special exemption for Leiden University.


Find a story that you would want to visualize. I suggest departing from a phenomena you are interested in and looking for a suitable set of data you can use for this (see below). Find a story in this data, but do not worry too much if this story does not overturn your or anyone else’s expectations. The most important thing is to independently find and visualize information.

For example, I was interested in gift giving in general and the politics of gift giving in particular. After a bit of searching I found the Federal Registry’s information on Gifts to Federal Employees from Foreign Sources. This led to a lot of ongoing data exploration, but it also led to a relatively simple story: the different values of gifts given through the years to Obama and George Bush.

Data-set(s) of your choice

The idea for this project is not that you will create an entire new set of data yourself through research as that would take too long (save that for your Master and potentially PhD thesis). Instead you should use one or multiple data-sets that are already available for you to use as the basis for your information visualization.

There are a lot of data-sets available online. The following are a selection of data-sets or portals that may provide what you need (in no particular order):

  • UN Data: The portal for all sorts of United Nations macro-scale data.
  • IATI Registry: A portal where major developmental NGOs provide information on the projects they undertake in as transparent a way as possible.
  • Natural Earth: Free raster and vector maps, including info on borders, names, and more. 
  • SEDAC: NASA’s Socio-Economic Data and Applications Center
  • European Union Open Data Portal: Access to open data published by EU institutions and bodies
  • European Data Portal: A portal that collects even more data from accross the Public Sector in Europe.
  • DANS: The KNAW’s (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen) data repository curating more than 200.000 data-sets based on (Dutch) academic research.
  • The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: A specific data-set focused on the records of 36.000 slaving voyages.
  • Connected Histories: integrated search for British history sources from 1500-1900, including Old Bailey Online, the Digital Panopticon, and many more.
  • Delpher: Over 100 million digitized Dutch newspaper pages.
  • Stanford Large Network Dataset Collection: It’s both a large collection as well as a collection of large networks! 😉
  • KONECT: Another network collection (also large, not all of which are large networks) from the university of Koblenz.
  • Data.World: A commercial platform that hosts a large collection of data-sets on various sources. Not all data are open, however, and a sign-up is required.

It is virtually impossible to keep track of all the Open Data collections or portals, let alone data-sets, out there. If you find a good one that you think should be listed here for the benefit of future participants, let the instructor know and it’ll be added to the list.


Aside from the visualization you will also write a 1500 word max. report in which you will:

  • Provide a 100-150 word abstract for the visualization and visualization project that could be used to accompany the visualization on your project page on this course website.
  • An explanation of the story you are visualizing
  • The data and design tools you used and choices you made in creating this visualization in a way that is detailed in such a way that it would in theory be able to roughly replicate the visualization.
    • do not forget to reference course literature or other sources of information where appropriate!
  • Challenges encountered during the project and opportunities you see for this or similar information visualizations
  • A project timetable, including an overview of time spent on the project, optional self-learning, and peer feedback.

Deadlines, details, and delivery

Deadlines (Tentative)

9 December 2019: Soft deadline at which point you should have communicated to the instructor and the people in your peer-group what you have in mind for story, data-source and visualization. Of course all of these things can and will likely be subject to (some) change, but it is good to have a plan at this point.

?? January 2019: Hard deadline for handing in the assignment.


The assignment should take you about 40 hours. It is important that you keep to this time budget as the assignment will also be graded by whether or not you scoped your project correctly (i.e. whether you tried not to do too much in the time you have available, a critical skill for whatever career path you choose).

How you spend those 40 hours is entirely up to you, but there are certain aspects not to underestimate, such as wrangling of data, learning about some tools or aspects of them, iteration of design, and final polishing.
Don’t forget to plan time for writing the report, either.

Don’t forget, if you still have some hours left from the 10 hours of self-learning, you can use this for learning more about tools or the context of your visualization.

In addition, you will have 5 hours of peer feedback. This is meant for you to have a look at and provide advice for other people in your peer-group. These groups will be composed by the instructor.


On the ?? of January, you will be expected to hand in, in a zip file via Blackboard:

  • Your visualization in a familiar file format.
  • Your report in .docx or similar rich text format.
  • A meta-data file where you provide information on all the data you used and where it can be found.
    • in case you manipulated existing data or created your own source of data, make it either accessible online or include a copy of the file in an open access file format.


Try Slack first, email second. I will not be responding to e-mail regularly in the weeks of Christmas and New Year.

Open Office hours continue again after January 6, so don’t hesitate to drop by!