Explaining Data Wrangling: What It Is And How It Works

Muninder Adavelli
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Updated · Jun 15, 2023

Muninder Adavelli
The Chief Content Strategist | Joined October 2021

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Dealing with data can be daunting, especially since we now generate 1.145 trillion MB of data daily. Fortunately, data wrangling is the best way to solve it. 

Data wrangling is a process that turns raw data into a structured and readable format. It involves understanding, cleaning, structuring, and verifying data.

For every data management analysis and task, wrangling is vital. After all, over 95% of businesses face challenges with unstructured data management. 

To learn more about this process, keep reading!

Data Wrangling Definition 

Data wrangling is a set of processes that turn unstructured data into a format that’s ideal for analysis. It's also known as data remediation or munging.

The processes include exploring, transforming, and verifying raw data. As a result, you'll have a consistent, correct, and reliable format. 

You can create insights and use them as business intelligence with the output. Any analysis will do well with data wrangling since it ensures the data is complete and reliable. 

Continue reading to learn more about the steps included in the data wrangling process. 

How Does Data Wrangling Work? 

Data wrangling works through a combination of several processes. Below are the six essential steps and techniques involved in data wrangling:

1. Discovering

Discovering data means familiarizing yourself with the data you're going to process. By doing so, you can know how you would use it.

In this process, you can achieve two things. In most cases, you'll learn about any pattern or trend in the data. You'll also find obvious issues you need to fix later on.

This step is essential for every data wrangling project since it will help you understand the following steps.

2. Structuring

Data wrangling deals with and processes raw or unusable data. It can also be incomplete. The data can also appear in an inconsistent, or even wrong, format.

Structuring means changing the raw data into the form you need for analysis. The format will vary depending on the analytical model for interpretation.

3. Cleaning

Once the data is structured, you can find and remove the inherent errors. This process is what we call “cleaning.”

Since these errors will affect your analysis, you must remove or change them. This step can happen in many ways, like deleting empty cells, removing wrong-valued rows, or aligning every input.

The primary goal of this step is to ensure the database has no errors that can affect your analysis.

Note: Some people compare data wrangling with data cleaning since the two can mean the same in a few aspects. 

However, the latter is only referring to removing inaccurate data. It is only one part of the wrangling process since you also transform the data into a more usable form.

4. Enriching

Enriching means determining if you have every piece of data needed for the task you will do. If not, you need to enhance it by adding more data. 

The new data can come from values from other sets of data. In this step, you must know what additional data you can use. 

Once you see enrichment as essential, repeat these steps for the new data you'll add.

5. Validating

This step means seeing if the data is consistent and high-quality for your purpose. 

In this process, you can end up in two scenarios. You can see issues you must solve or know if the data is ready for analysis.

You can achieve this step through several processes, but most are automatic. In most cases, a programming code can do this job for you.

6. Publishing Or Sharing

After validating the data, you're ready to publish and share it. This means you make it available for others on your team to analyze.

The format of the final output will depend on its purpose. It usually comes as a written report or an electronic document.

Importance Of Data Wrangling

Data wrangling accounts for almost 80% of data professionals' time. Many people wonder why they put so much time and effort into it.

When you look at it, the answer is simple. The output from this process is the basis of every analysis and plan. If the process isn't thorough, it can lead to failures, missed chances, and faulty solutions. 

As such, you can enjoy better results soon if you allot more time, effort, and resources to data wrangling

With this in mind, here are some cases that show the importance of data wrangling:

Combining sources

The data wrangling process is necessary to combine several data sources into one database. With it, you can have reliable data for analysis and interpretation.

Cleaning irrelevant or blank data

This task is essential in data cleaning since it searches for gaps to remove or fill with data. It's also helpful in taking out unnecessary or irrelevant data.

Addressing inconsistencies

Data wrangling is essential to identify any anomalies in the data. It's also used to explain inconsistent data (if there's one) or delete it for better analysis.

Other than these use cases, data wrangling is also essential for companies. Here are the reasons why:

Fraud detection

With data wrangling, anyone can detect any inconsistency or inaccurate data. By doing so, it can provide evidence of any fraud that happened in a business or company. 

Data security protection

As data wrangling transforms raw data, it can support any data security essentials. It does the job by providing consistent and correct data out of raw data.

Accurate and consistent data output

Companies and businesses always need solutions and analysis. In this case, data wrangling offers consistent and accurate data for every problem.

Compliance with regulations

This process can help businesses follow industry standards. They can find solutions relevant to the industry's regulations.

Analyze consumer behavior

Wrangling offers a detailed output that can analyze consumer behavior. With its result, businesses can take the necessary actions to improve performance based on this data.

Less time for data preparation

Data wrangling tools help companies and businesses prepare and analyze data faster. As a result, they spend less time on data preparation.

Discover data trends

Data wrangling helps in creating analysis and insights into trends. You can interpret and predict trends based on reliable and structured data.

Recognize value

Companies and businesses can use data wrangling to see where they stand based on any raw data they have. Data wrangling lets them recognize the value and see if there's any improvement or progress. It will also help them set new goals to achieve.

Challenges In Data Wrangling

Data wrangling involves complicated steps since it works on raw and unstructured data. Here are some of the challenges you'll face should you do a data-wrangling task:

Dealing with a massive volume of data to wrangle

These days, data wrangling involves massive amounts of data—or what we now call “Big Data.” With a high volume to process, this task becomes challenging. 

For example, significant e-commerce sites like Amazon ship 1.6 million packages daily. With so many orders, they must process thousands of transactions every minute. In this case, they need an efficient data-wrangling solution to process data faster.

Processing unstructured data

Data comes in various forms, and most of them are raw and unstructured. Traditional databases are not suitable for handling this type of data.

For instance, customer reviews vary from one person to another. Some customers do bulleted reviews, while others review in one phrase or sentence.

In this case, a business needs advanced methods and tools to process valuable insights from unstructured data.

Evolution of formats and sources

Various data formats and sources have evolved over the years. These changes result in data inconsistencies. Moreover, the resources can have different structures. 

For example, each platform differs in the format and structure of its data. You need to understand the design and layout of each platform. This way, you'll know how to process the data from them.

Adhering to security and privacy rules

Security and privacy are essential in every piece of data you wrangle. 

This challenge usually arises when dealing with sensitive data. Some of them are personal information, medical histories, or financial records.

Besides these challenges, you must also understand data-wrangling techniques, steps, tools, and best practices. 

Knowing all these is the best way to deal with the challenges of the task. This lets you have a smoother process and better output in less time.


Data wrangling is an essential step in dealing with raw data. With this process, you can use any raw data and transform it into reliable data for analysis. 

Depending on the raw data, this process can be tedious and time-consuming. However, the result will always be worth it since it's the basis of any reliable insight and decision.


What is the difference between data mining and data wrangling?

The main difference between data mining and data wrangling is the steps involved. Data mining finds patterns and relationships in large data groups. On the other hand, data wrangling does more by turning raw data into useful ones. 

How do you do data wrangling in Excel?

Data wrangling in Excel is possible in several ways. If you want to do some cleaning, select the range you wish to process. Then, click the Data tab > Data Tools > Text to Columns. Afterward, follow the instructions using the Convert Text to Columns Wizard. 

Which language is best for data wrangling?

Python is the best language for data wrangling. Besides being efficient and versatile, it can host several open-source libraries supporting the data wrangling process. Python also includes debugging tools.


Muninder Adavelli

Muninder Adavelli

Munni is also an ardent student of human-computer interfaces and user experience design. He makes the vital connections between technology and the end user. He always finds the ultimate way to tell the story of software, to highlight its strengths and weaknesses in an accessible way. He often contemplates the dynamic relationship between humanity and technology over a pint of lager, while enjoying some classy classical rock.

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