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st: infile and dictionaries and the small data mindset

From   "E. Paul Wileyto" <>
Subject   st: infile and dictionaries and the small data mindset
Date   Wed, 14 May 2008 09:23:18 -0400

One of our worst fears is that someone will come to us with data scattered all over a spreadsheet file in little summary tables. If they have lots of those files, I can usually find a way to script the import efficiently using ODBC.

What if you have those same tables in a text file? Is there any efficient way to import and parse data in such a format? I have the far end of this process scripted so the researcher can generate his own summary statistics, but getting the data into Stata involves a program making an excel file, followed by cutting and pasting into Stata. I'd like to cut out some of the import steps, so that all we would need to do is give a list of filenames to a Stata script, and watch the screen roll by as the data get extracted.
The files are generated by a program that is monitoring mouse behavior. Each file may contain behavior from one mouse on one day, or several mice on one day. The general format is always the same. For each mouse-run, there is a small block of ancillary information as a header. I cannot guarantee that all of these blocks have the same number of words, but some of that info will be needed as data. These are followed by blocks of numbers in columns. Each block has an alphanumeric header before it (on its own line), and there are row numbers.

I would have a fairly good idea how to script this in Matlab, but I don't want to be the one doing the import on a daily basis, and it's hard for the researcher to justify buying into some pricey software just to script that one task.

Any clues about scripting this type of import in Stata would be appreciated.



E. Paul Wileyto, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biostatistics
Tobacco Use Research Center
School of Medicine, U. of Pennsylvania
3535 Market Street, Suite 4100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309

Fax: 215-746-7140
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