When we think of data we might imagine:
a bunch of ones-and-zeros sitting inside of
the stats from our favorite sports team,
or the medical records at our local hospital.
But what exactly are data?
Data are a collection of symbols that describe
observations of the world around us.
They record facts about the natural world
that we live in.
These include descriptions of the qualities
of things in our world.
For example, colors, shapes, and textures.
In addition, they include measurements of
quantities of things in our world.
For example: size, weight, and velocity.
Data are represented using symbols.
This includes representing qualities of things
For example, the color of an apple is red.
In addition, this includes representing quantities
of things using numbers.
For example, the apple has a mass of 100 grams.
Imagine we’re feeling sick and we go to see
Our doctor takes a measurement of our body
temperature using a thermometer.
The thermometer reads 39°C (which is 102°F
for those of us who’ve yet to switch to the
Based on this temperature, it’s clear that
we’re running a fever.
This temperature value of 39°C is what we
refer to as a “datum”
(i.e. a single piece of data).
The word “data” is actually the plural form
of the word “datum”.
So when we have more than one “datum”, we
However, most people now use the term “data”
in both the singular and plural form, interchangeably.
The term “datum” is now rarely, if ever, used.
Data can be used to create information.
However, in order to create information, we
first need to
organize, analyze, and interpret the data.