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Introduction to Scikit-Learn

Scikit-Learn is a free machine learning library for python. It’s a very useful tool for data mining and data analysis and can be used for personal as well as commercial use.

Scikit-Learn lets users perform various machine learning tasks and provides the means to implement machine learning in python. This module is designed keeping in mind that it needs to work with python scientific and numerical libraries, namely, SciPy and NumPy respectively. It’s basically a SciPy toolkit that features various machine learning algorithms.

Scikit-Learn has small standard datasets that you don’t need to download from any external website. You can just import these datasets directly from Scikit-Learn. Following is the list of the datasets that come with Scikit-Learn:

1. Boston house prices Dataset
2. Iris plants Dataset
3. Diabetes Dataset
4. Digits Dataset
5. Wine recognition Dataset
6. Breast cancer Dataset

Here, we are going to use the Iris plants Dataset throughout this tutorial. This Dataset consists of 4 fields, namely, sepal length, sepal width, petal length, petal width. It also contains a super class named class which contains three different classes, Iris-Setosa, Iris-Versicolour, Iris-Virginica. These are basically the species of iris plants and the data in our dataset, that is, the iris plants have been divided into these three classes.

We are going to show how to import this dataset and then perform machine learning algorithms on the said dataset. You can import the same or any of these datasets, the same way as we are going to do in this tutorial.

Recommended audience

  • Entry level and advanced level programmers in python in order to widen their skill set
  • Data analysts and professionals who work specifically in the field of dealing with data and datasets in real world
  • Professionals who want to learn python and start a career in Big Data
  • Professionals who want career in artificial intelligence


Learning prerequisites:

  • Some experience in Python would be useful
  • Prior knowledge of machine learning is recommended

You can take a look at this Machine learning tutorial by intellipaat

Software prerequisites:

There are some Python libraries that you will have to install before you can get started with installing Scikit-Learn, since Scikit-Learn buildsoff of these tools in order to support scientific and numerical libraries of python.

Following are the tools and libraries that you need preinstalled before using Scikit-Learn

  • Python(2.7 or above)
  • NumPy(1.6.1 or above)
  • Scipy (0.9 or above)
  • Scikit-Learn

Before getting started with the tutorial, following is a quick overview of all that we are going to cover in this tutorial. You can click on any topic if you want to jump to a specific one.

Watch this Python Online training video by Intellipaat

Why Scikit-Learn?

There are not many threads on internet where you can actually find the reasons why Scikit-Learn has become popular among Data Scientists, but it has some obvious benefits that justify why organisations have come to use and admire Scikit-Learn. Some of those benefits are listed below

Benefit of Scikit-Learn:


  • BSD license: Scikit-Learn has a BSD license, meaning there is minimal restriction on the use and distribution of the software, making it free to use for everyone
  • Easy to use: The popularity of this module also comes from the ease of use factor that Scikit-Learn offers
  • Document Detailing: It also offers document detailing of the API that users can access anytime on the website, helping the users integrate machine learning into their own platforms
  • Extensive use in Industry: Scikit-Learn is used extensively by various organisations to predict consumer behaviour, identifying suspicious activities, and more
  • Machine learning Algorithms: Scikit-Learn covers most of the machine learning algorithms such as
  • Huge community support: Since python is easy to learn and use (learn Python here), being able to perform machine learning tasks using python has been one of the most important reasons behind the popularity of Scikit-Learn, since python already had a huge community of users who can now perform machine learning in the platform that they are already comfortable with
  • Algorithms Flowchart: Unlike some other programming language where users usually face a problem of having to choose from multiple competing implementations of  same algorithms, Scikit-Learn has an algorithms cheat sheet or flowchart to assist the users

Installation and Configuration

Setting up Scikit-Learn Environment:

As we have already seen in the Prerequisites that there is a whole set of other tools and libraries that you need to install before diving into the installation of Scikit-Learn. So let’s start off by discussing the installation of all these other libraries, step by step since the main motivation behind this tutorial is to provide you with all enough information about Scikit-Learn to get you started with it and then some more.

In case you already have some or all of these libraries, we have provided the sequence of the installation process that we are going to follow. You can jump directly to the installation of required library by clicking on it.

  • Installing python
  • Installing NumPy
  • Installing SciPy
  • Installing Scikit-Learn

I will also show how to use pip to install all these libraries individually, for those who are not familiar with pip-

Pip is a package management system. It is used to manage the packages written in python or with python dependencies.

Step 1: Installing Python

  • You can easily install python by visiting the following link

  • Make sure that you install the latest version or at least version 2.7 or above
  • After installing Python, you will need to check if Python is available for you to use on command line, for that, open the terminal by searching for ‘cmd’ on your system.

In the command line, type:


If Python is installed successfully then it should display the python version that you are using. This command will open the python interpreter.
Installing Python
Step 2: Installing Numpy

  • NumPy is a fundamental package or library for python that provides the support to perform numerical computations
  • Download the installer for NumPy by visiting the following link and then run the installer

  • You can also install NumPy by runnig the following command in your terminal:
pip install numpy
  • If you already have NumPy then, it will display ‘Requirement already satisfied’.

Installing Numpy

Step 3: Installing SciPy

  • SciPy is an open source library for Python to perform scientific computations and technical computations
  • Download the SciPy installer using the following link and then run it

  • You can use pip to install SciPy by typing the following command in the terminal:
pip install scipy
  • If you already have SciPy then, it will display ‘Requirement already satisfied’.

Installing SciPy

Step 4: Installing Scikit-Learn

  • Use pip to install Scikit-Learn using the following command:
pip install Scikit-learn
  • If you already have Scikit-Learn then, it will display ‘Requirement already satisfied

Installing Scikit-Learn

Operations and Computations

Importing the Dataset:

As we have mentioned earlier that the dataset that we are going to use here in this tutorial in the Iris Plants Dataset. The Scikit-Learn learn comes with this dataset so we don’t need to download it externally from any other source. We will import the dataset directly but before we do that we need to import Scikit-Learn and Pandasusing the following commands:

import sklearn
import pandas as pd

After importing sklearn, we can easily import the dataset from it, using the following    command.

from sklearn.datasets import load_iris

We have successfully imported the Iris Plants Dataset from sklearn.We need to import pandas because we are going to load the imported data into a pandas dataframe and use head(), tail() functions of python pandas to display the content of the dataframe. Let’s see how to convert this dataset into a pandas dataframe.

iriss = load_iris()
df_iris = pd.DataFrame(, columns=iriss.feature_names)

Data Exploration:

Now, we have a dataframe named df_iris that contains the Iris plants Dataset imported from Scikit-Learn in a tabular form. We will be performing all the operations of machine learning on this dataframe.

Let’s display the records from this dataframe using head() function:


head() function when used with no argument displays the first five rows of the dattaframe, however you can pass any integer argument to display the same number of rows from the dataframe. The output of the above command would be:

  sepal length (cm) sepal width (cm) petal length (cm) petal width (cm)
0 5.1 3.5 1.4 0.2
1 4.9 3.0 1.4 0.2
2 4.7 3.2 1.3 0.2
3 4.6 3.1 1.5 0.2
4 5.0 3.6 1.4 0.2

Using tail() function to display the records from the dataframe:


tail() function, when used without any argument, displays the last five rows of the dataframe. Similar to head() function, you can pass any integer as an argument to display the same number of records from the end. The output of the above command would be:


sepal length (cm)

sepal width (cm)

petal length (cm)

petal width (cm)








2.5 5.0 1.9



3.0 5.2




3.4 5.4


149 5.9 3.0 5.1


Since the tail() function displays the last records of the dataframe, we can see that the index number of the last row is 149 and when we used the head() function the index number of the first row is 0, meaning the total number of entries or the total of 150 records are present in the iris dataset.

Let’s see how we can check the datatypes of the fields present in the dataframe



sepal length (cm) float64
sepal width (cm) float64
petal length (cm) float64
petal width (cm) float64
dtype: object

So, using dtypes, we can list different columns in the dataframe along with their respective datatypes.

Data Visualization:

Having performed the data exploration for our dataset, now let’s create some plots to visually represent the data in our dataset which will help us uncover more stories hidden in our dataset.

Python has many libraries that provide functions to perform data visualizations on the datasets. We can use .plot extension of pandas to create a scatterplot of the features or the fields of our dataset against each other, we also need to import matplotlib which will provide an object oriented API to embed plots into applications.


from pandas.plotting import scatter_matrix
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt


output 7

We can also use seaborn library to create pairplot of all the features in the dataset against each other. To use seaborn, we need to import seaborn library first. Let’s see how it is done and how to create seaborn pairplot.


import seaborn as sns
sns.set(style=”ticks”, color_codes=True)
dfiris = sns.load_dataset(“iris”)
sns.pairplot(dfiris, hue=”species”)

output 8

You can also use a different color palette, using palette attribute of pairplot, as shown  below:

import seaborn as sns
sns.set(style=”ticks”, color_codes=True)
dfiris = sns.load_dataset(“iris”)
sns.pairplot(dfiris, hue=”species”, palette=”husl”)


output 9

Learning and Predicting:

The scatterplot that we created was useful only upto a limited extent. It’s evident that there is grouping in the species of iris plants in various classes and it also shows that there exist some relationship between the fields or features but then it’s hard to point out which class is which and which datapoint represents which flower species  in scatterplot because of such monotone of the color distribution in datapoints.

Luckily for us, we can rectify and overcome this problem by using seaborn module for data visualisation in python. This is exactly what we did by creating a pairplot of the given dataset using seaborn. We have created two different seaborn pairplot with two different color palettes. You can refer to any one of them to draw the conclusions and predictions. Whichever one makes it easier for you to make the observations.

Selecting Features/Fields:

Now that we have become comfortable with the data and have made data visualizations, let’s further decide which features or the fields in the dataset are we going to use to implement machine learning and make predictions. We have to select features that make most sense fro out machine learning model.

But why selecting features at all? You might ask, reasonably so, that why can’t we just use all the features for our machine learning model and let the model do the work for us by figuring out which feature is the most relevant one? To answer this question, not all features serve as information. Adding features that are data just for the sake of data in model will make the model unnecessarily slow and less efficient. The model will get confused with abundance of useless data and try to fit these features into the model which is just unnecessary hassle.

That is why we need to select the features that are going to be used in machine learning model.

In the pairplot that we created using seaborn module, it can be noticed that the feature petal length (cm) and petal width (cm) are clustered in fairly well defined groups.

Let’s take a better look at them closely:

Selecting Features

It is also noticeable that the boundary between iris-versicolor and iris-viginia seems fuzzy, that might be a problem for some classifiers so we will have to keep that mind for later, but these features still give the most noticeable grouping between the species among all the features, hence we are going to be using these two features further in our tutorial for our machine learning model.

Preparing the data:

Right now, we have the data in pandas dataframe so before we start with the machine learning models, we need to convert the data into numpy arrays because sklearn works well with data in form of numpy array. It does not work with pandas dataframe.

This can be done using the following command:

labels = np.asarray(dfiris.species)

Sklearn comes with a tool that can encode label strings into numeric representations. It goes through the label and converts the first unique string as 0, then the next as 1 and so on. The said tool is LabelEncoder(). Let’s see how to use this:

from sklearn.preprocessing import LabelEncoder
le = LabelEncoder()
labels = le.transform(labels)

Now we will remove all the features from our dataframe that we don’t want using drop() method as follows:

df_selected1 = dfiris.drop([‘sepal_length’, ‘sepal_width’, “species”], axis=1)

After this, the only features that we are left with are petal length and petal width.

df_features = df_selected1.to_dict(orient=’records’)
from sklearn.feature_extraction import DictVectorizer
vec = DictVectorizer()
features = vec.fit_transform(df_features).toarray()

Training set and Test set:

Using the last command we have converted the numerical features into label arrays, the next step is splitting up the data into training and test sets. Again, sklearn has a tool to do that as well. All we have to do is import it and use it as follows:

from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
features_train, features_test, labels_train, labels_test = train_test_split(
features, labels, test_size=0.20, random_state=0)

Our test and training set is ready, now let’s perform classification using machine learning algorithms or approaches and at last we will compare the test accuracy of all the classifiers on test data.

Building a model and choosing a classifier

Building a model and choosing a classifier
As we have already discussed in the benefits of Scikit-Learn that it comes with a flowchart to help users decide which machine algorithm will suit their dataset the best. We are also going to use as reference to identify which algorithms should we use on our test data. The flowchart is available on Scikit-Learn’s official website.

Using the following list, let’s see what category we fall into

  • Number of samples: Our number of samples in more than 50 and less than 100k
  • Labeled data: We have labeled data
  • Is a category being predicted? We are going to make predictions about the category of the iris plants

So going through the flowchart, we can try out following algorithms on our test set:

  • SVM( Support vector machine)
  • K- Nearest Neighbours Classifier

SVM(Support vector machine):

In machine learning, SVM or support vector machine is a learning algorithm where the algorithm analyses the data and builds a model that is used for mainly classification or regression techniques of machine learning.

Here, in our case, we are using SVM model for classification.

Computing accuracy using test set:

from sklearn.svm import SVC
svm_model_linear = SVC(kernel = ‘linear’, C = 1).fit(features_train, labels_train)
svm_predictions = svm_model_linear.predict(features_test)
accuracy = svm_model_linear.score(features_test, labels_test)
print(“Test accuracy:”,accuracy)


Test accuracy: 1.0

Computing accuracy using Train set:

from sklearn.svm import SVC
svm_model_linear = SVC(kernel = ‘linear’, C = 1).fit(features_train, labels_train)
svm_predictions = svm_model_linear.predict(features_train)
accuracy = svm_model_linear.score(features_train, labels_train)
print(“Train accuracy:”,accuracy)


Train accuracy: 0.9583333333333334

Now we can use the train accuracy and Test accuracy that we have computed to find out how much our model is over-fitting by comparing both of these accuracies.

Model over-fitting is a condition or a modelling error where the function is fitting too closely to a limited set of data points.

As we can see that there is not much difference in our test accuracy and train accuracy, that means that our model is not over-fitting.

K- nearest neighbours classifier:

KNN or K nearest neighbours is a non parametric learning method in machine learning, mainly used for classification and regression techniques of machine learning. It is considered as one of the simplest algorithms in machine learning.

Computing accuracy using Test set:

from sklearn.neighbors import KNeighborsClassifier
knn = KNeighborsClassifier(n_neighbors = 7).fit(features_train, labels_train)
accuracy = knn.score(features_test, labels_test)
print(“Test accuracy:” accuracy)


Test accuracy: 1.0

Computing accuracy using Train set:

from sklearn.neighbors import KNeighborsClassifier
knn = KNeighborsClassifier(n_neighbors = 7).fit(features_train, labels_train)
accuracy = knn.score(features_train, labels_train)
print(“Train accuracy:” accuracy)
Train accuracy: 0.958

Again, we can use train set accuracy and test set accuracy to find out if the model is over-fitting.

NOTE: Don’t worry if you get slightly different end results, the accuracy in these classifiers are expected to vary sometimes.

Who is using Python Scikit-Learn

Scikit-Learn is being extensively used by some big dogs in the industry, some of them are listed below:

  • Spotify: Spotify has been using Scikit-Learn for a long time because of the features and models it provides. Scikit-Learn is mainly used for music recommendations in spotify
  • org: Scikit-Learn’s Randon forest classifier is used at to drive targeting emails. Scikit-Learn is easy to use and it provide assistance in variety of classifier which makes it one of the top choices to implement machine learning algorithms
  • Bestofmedia Group: Scikit-Learn is used for various tasks at Bestofmedia, such as click prediction, spam fighting and more
  • Data Publica: Data Publica is yet another big organisation using Scikit-Learn for building models and using it to identify potential future customers by performing predictive analysis

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Scikit-Learn has proven its worth by being able to assist in the problems professionals face when they implement predictive models. Scikit-Learn is not just limited to the IT industry. It has various applications in variety of sectors. It can be used to implement machine learning and can be paired with data visualisations and that just makes machine learning even more interesting. With all the benefits it has, we can easily say that Scikit-Learn has a bright future scope. So, learning Scikit-Learn should be on the top of your list considering it can enhance your career options.

Looking to dive into the depths of machine leaning using Scikit-Learn? You need not look any further, we have got you covered. Check out the Python course for certification by Intellipaat, where not only will you learn Scikit-Learn but you will also learn about all the modules in python that we have used along with Scikit-Learn library in this tutorial.

That would be all for this tutorial, we hope that you found this tutorial helpful and you got to learn something.

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