What is Data?

Data is everywhere. It’s in everything we do and plays a part in every decision we make. Decisions like, “Is it cheaper/faster to take the train to school every day, or to drive?” decisions we make every day are determined by data we collect ourselves simply by going about our daily lives. Obviously, Data is also required for any kind of research to be successful, including in digital humanities. But how exactly do we define data?

Before we can define what exactly data is, we must first learn more about the different kinds of data. First, we have qualitative data. An example of qualitative data might be: “I live a long way from school”; a non-numerical descriptive piece of information. The second type of data would be quantitative data. An example might be: “I live 20 miles from my school”, or, “it takes me an average of 45 minutes to get to school from home”. This gives us a basic definition of data: a set of information used to describe a certain situation or solve a certain problem. But the true definition is slightly more complex than that.

To decipher the true definition of data, we need to be able to understand what good data is and what bad data is. The first thing to note is that the more data points you have, the better the result you will obtain; this is called the accuracy of the data. The larger the scale of the experiment, within reason, the more accurate the result. So, taking these things into account, I would have to say that data would be defined as the information we observe and record – both qualitative and quantitative – with enough accuracy to make an argument, answer a question, or solve a problem.