How to Use SQL for Data Analysis?

How to Use SQL for Data Analysis?

Data Analysis can be compared to finding a needle in a haystack, as you need to find meaningful insights from massive datasets.

Fortunately, we have the perfect metal detector for finding the needle — SQL, a query language that makes working with these massive datasets easy.

So, let's look at how you can use SQL to dig out insights from huge datasets.

How to Use SQL for Data Analysis?

Data analysis involves using various statistical and computational methods to transform raw data into meaningful insights, conclusions, and predictions.

However, let's avoid getting into the statistical aspect of Data Analysis. We will only cover the computational method, which brings us to SQL.

SQL is a query language we can use to "question" a database and get answers from it.  We can retrieve and update data, manipulate it, join tables, and more with SQL.

Here's how you can use SQL for Data Analysis:

Get Familiar With Data

The first step in Data Analysis is to familiarize yourself with data by understanding the structure and content of the database you are working with.

Here are the things to know about a Database before writing any SQL code:

  • Names and Data Types of tables and columns
  • Relationship between the different tables
  • Content of the database (what it stores, who it is made for, etc.)

Once you are familiar with the database, you can start writing queries.

Start Writing Queries

A database can have multiple tables with multiple rows and columns. So, the first order of business in SQL is to filter out relevant information from the database.

For this, you need to master the holy trinity of SQL statements:

  • SELECT specifies the column to filter
  • FROM specifies the table to filter the data from
  • WHERE specifies the condition for filtering the data

Suppose you have a dataset of 1000 customers in the Customer table (with columns - id, name, orders, and amount). You need to filter out customer names of customers who've made an order of more than 500 dollars.

Here's an SQL statement you can write in this case:

FROM Customer
WHERE amount > 500;
Example: Basic SQL Statements

Here, the SELECT statement selects the customers' names from the Customer table WHERE the amount exceeds 500.

Side-Note: If you want to know more about different commands in SQL and learn the language at a deeper level, why not try our Learn SQL course?

Manipulate Data

Data Manipulation is an essential aspect of Data Analysis.

Data in a database table can't be static all the time; it's bound to change. Therefore, you need a mechanism to update and delete data in a table.SQL provides you with UPDATE and DELETE statements to do this.

Suppose you have a Users table with a column status that stores the payment status of a user and an amount column to store the amount they've paid.

Say you want to set the status to "unpaid" for users who haven't yet paid.  

Here's how you can do this with SQL:

SET status = "unpaid"
WHERE amount = 0; 
Example: SQL Update

Similarly, you can also choose to delete all the users who haven't paid for their orders:

DELETE FROM Users WHERE amount = 0;

Join Multiple Tables

In Data Analysis, you may need to combine data from multiple tables.

With SQL, you can join tables based on common columns to create powerful queries.

Let's say we have two tables, "orders" and "customers," and we want to join them based on the common customer_id column in both tables.

Here's how we can do it using SQL join:

SELECT orders.order_id,
FROM orders
JOIN customers ON orders.customer_id = customers.customers_id;
Example: SQL JOIN

Here, the JOIN keyword specifies the table we want to join, which is the "customers" table.

And the ON keyword specifies the condition that needs to be met for the join to happen, which is that the "customer_id" column in the "orders" table must match the "id" column in the "customers" table.

Next, we will see some tips and tricks to perform data analysis efficiently.

3 Tips for Efficient Data Analysis with SQL

Data Analysis can be complicated. But if you know how to manage your SQL code and optimize queries efficiently, you will save time and effort.

With that in mind, here are three tips for efficient data analysis with SQL:


Indexing tables improve query performance, especially when working with large datasets.

You first need to identify the most frequently queried columns in your tables and then create indexes on them.

Here's an example of how to create an index on the "id" column in a table called "my_table":

CREATE INDEX my_index ON my_table (id);

Query Optimization

When working with large datasets, it's vital to write optimized queries to handle the volume of data you're working with.

There are three main ways to optimize a query:

  • Use efficient Join conditions.
  • Avoid unnecessary subqueries.
  • Filter data as early as possible.

Code Management

As your SQL codebase grows, it's important to establish best practices for organizing and managing your code.

Use consistent naming conventions for tables and columns, document your code with comments, and create reusable code snippets for repetitive tasks.


When it comes to data analysis, there's always more to learn — whether you are a seasoned SQL programmer or just starting out with the language.

But we hope our explanation of SQL provided a basic understanding of how to use the language to analyze large data sets.

Now all you need to do is sprinkle a little creativity and determination to unlock SQL's full potential for data analysis.