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What is Data?

Data is organised information. It can be numbers, words, measurements, observations or even just descriptions of things.

Qualitative vs Quantitative

Data can be qualitative or quantitative.

  • Qualitative data is descriptive information (describes something)
  • Quantitative data, is numerical information (numbers).

Collecting

Data can be collected in many ways. The simplest way is direct observation.

Example: you might want to find out how many cars pass by a certain point on a road in a 10-minute interval. Then you simply stand at that point on the road, and count the cars that pass by in that interval.

Survey

One of the most common ways of collecting data is surveying.

A survey is often in the form of a questionnaire or a census; the data collected may be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data.

Another method of data collection is sampling. In this method, information about a large group is studied by gathering data about selected individual members of the group.

Data or Datum?

Strictly speaking, the word “data” is in the plural (the singular form is “datum”). However, the word is often used as if it is a singular noun.