Lesson 3. Introduction to Working With JSON Data in Open Source Python

Learning Objectives

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Create and convert JSON objects using Python.

What You Need

You will need a computer with internet access to complete this lesson.

In this lesson, you will explore the machine readable JSON data structure. Machine readable data structures are more efficient - particularly for larger data that contain hierarchical structures.

Review JSON

Recall from the previous lesson that the structure of a JSON object is as follows:

  • The data are in name/value pairs using colons :.
  • Data objects are separated by commas.
  • Curly braces {} hold the objects.
  • Square brackets [] can be used to indicate an array that contains a group of objects.
  • Each data element is enclosed with quotes "" if it is a character, or without quotes if it is a numeric value.


{ "name":"Chaya", "age":12, "city":"Boulder", "type":"Canine" }

You also learned that the Python library json is helpful to convert data from lists or dictonaries into JSON strings and JSON strings into lists or dictonaries. Pandas can also be used to convert JSON data (via a Python dictionary) into a Pandas DataFrame.

In this lesson, you will use the json and Pandas libraries to create and convert JSON objects.

Work with JSON Data in Python

Python Dictionary to JSON

Using the Python json library, you can convert a Python dictionary to a JSON string using the json.dumps() function.

Begin by creating the Python dictionary that will be converted to JSON.

import json
import pandas as pd
# Create and populate the dictionary
dict = {}
dict["name"] = "Chaya"
dict["age"] = 12
dict["city"] = "Boulder"
dict["type"] = "Canine"

{'name': 'Chaya', 'age': 12, 'city': 'Boulder', 'type': 'Canine'}

Notice below that the Python dictionary and the JSON string look very similiar, but that the JSON string is enclosed with quotes ''.

json_example = json.dumps(dict, ensure_ascii=False)

'{"name": "Chaya", "age": 12, "city": "Boulder", "type": "Canine"}'

Recall that you use type() to check the object type, and notice that the JSON is of type str.


JSON to Python Dictionary

You can also manually define JSON by enclosing the JSON with quotes ''.

json_sample =  '{ "name":"Chaya", "age":12, "city":"Boulder", "type":"Canine" }'


Using the json.loads() function, a JSON string can be converted to a dictionary.

# Load JSON into dictionary
data_sample = json.loads(json_sample)
{'name': 'Chaya', 'age': 12, 'city': 'Boulder', 'type': 'Canine'}

You can check the type again to see that it has been converted to a Python dictionary.


Recall that you can call any key of a Python dictionary and see the associated values.


Python Dictionary to Pandas Dataframe

If desired, you can use the from_dict() function from Pandas to read the dictionary into a Pandas Dataframe.

df = pd.DataFrame.from_dict(data_sample, orient='index')

Pandas Dataframe to JSON

Conversely, you can also convert a Pandas Dataframe to JSON using the Pandas method to_json().

sample_json = df.to_json(orient='split')


You now know the basics of creating and converting JSON objects using Python. In the next lessons, you will work with hierarchical JSON data accessed via RESTful APIs.

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