Scientists Say: Data | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Data

These are facts that are collected together so that they can be analyzed
Oct 15, 2018 — 6:30 am EST
data computer

These graphs aren’t data. They are graphs made to understand sets of data. But the data set itself is probably just a list of numbers and not as pretty. 


Data (noun, “DAH-tah”)

These are a group of facts that are collected so they can be analyzed. Data can come in many, many forms. They can be measurements, such as width, height or mass. Data could also be counts of something in an area over time. Data doesn’t always have to be something that comes in numbers. A data set could be a set of survey responses where people describe how they are feeling, for instance. Or it could even be a collection of images.

No matter what form they are in, data aren’t necessarily organized. They often come in a form that isn’t easy to understand. Scientists may spend years analyzing that data before they can draw any conclusions.

The term “data” is plural and refers to a group of facts. A single fact would be a “datum.”

In a sentence

Data from 21 retired athletes shows that hard-hitting sports like football won’t necessarily leave brain injuries behind.

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Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

data     Facts and/or statistics collected together for analysis but not necessarily organized in a way that gives them meaning. For digital information (the type stored by computers), those data typically are numbers stored in a binary code, portrayed as strings of zeros and ones.

digital     (in computer science and engineering)  An adjective indicating that something has been developed numerically on a computer or on some other electronic device, based on a binary system (where all numbers are displayed using a series of only zeros and ones).

information     (as opposed to data) Facts provided or trends learned about something or someone, often as a result of studying data.

mass     A number that shows how much an object resists speeding up and slowing down — basically a measure of how much matter that object is made from.

survey     (v.) To ask questions that glean data on the opinions, practices (such as dining or sleeping habits), knowledge or skills of a broad range of people. Researchers select the number and types of people questioned in hopes that the answers these individuals give will be representative of others who are their age, belong to the same ethnic group or live in the same region. (n.) The list of questions that will be offered to glean those data.