Scientists Say: Data

These are facts that are collected together so that they can be analyzed


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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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.