Understanding Data

Data is the plural form of the word “Datum,” which means “a single piece of information,” so data is commonly just defined as information. This information can exist in a number of forms: as bits and bytes stored digitally, as words on paper, or just as facts floating around in your brain.

There is a distinction between data and information, however. While data, information, and knowledge are closely related terms, there is a difference. Data is what is collected to create information, which eventually leads to knowledge. For example, the title of a video game is data, an article about the gameplay is information, and practical advice on how to play the game is knowledge. In most settings, this distinction will be irrelevant and the terms may be used interchangeably.

Data can be qualitative or quantitative and can be measured, analyzed, or visualized. Data typically goes through some sort of refining process, making readable and coherent information from collections of numbers or characters, often called “raw data.” Though it is technically the plural form of the word, it’s used as a singular noun in most conversations. More scientific speech or writing will still treat data as plural, however.

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Posted on May 5, 2023