Image Description: Neon sign with the words "Data has a better idea", with buildings in the background.
The definition of "data" varies across certain disciplinary and situational contexts, but at its most basic can be understood as information in a raw, unanalyzed form, which represents the values of a certain observed population, condition, or subject. Once analyzed, it can provide us with powerful information and knowledge about the world around us. Data can be cultural, geographical, scientific, statistical, digital, handwritten, and the list goes on! With this LibGuide, we hope to introduce you to the many forms data may take, and connect you with resources across CMU Libraries to help you succeed in your endeavors using data.
Everyone uses data! From fine arts, to robotics, to mathematics, to sociology, everyone engages with data. The important thing to remember is that the data may visually look different across these domains, but all are valid forms of research data.
Examples of research data include:
Do you have data-related questions or need help with a data project? We are here to help!
Every Wednesday, from 12-3 pm, in the Sorrells Library Den, located on the fourth floor of Wean Hall, is Data office hours! These office hours provide drop-in consultations to students, staff, faculty, and researchers in Pittsburgh. Library specialists are available to help at any point across the research data lifecycle, which includes data collecting, cleaning, structuring and integration, data management, data analysis, coding in R and Python, data sharing, and scholarly communications. Book an in-person consultation or virtual appointments are also available!
As researchers, we engage with data across all stages of the research lifecycle, from designing and planning our research, to the collection and analysis phase(s), to publishing and even sharing our data, and when reusing data to plan new projects. Each stage of this lifecycle has specific considerations for how to engage with data, and this LibGuide will introduce you to resources on data engagement at each stage!
You may encounter the word "data" used in both plural and singular contexts, but which is correct? Simply put, it varies! "Data" originates as the Latin plural of datum, in which refers to a single data point. Those who prefer to strictly adhere to these origins prefer to use datum to describe a data point and data to describe more than one data point.
In many academic communication settings, "data" continues to be treated as plural. Therefore, for now, a good practice when communicating data is to also treat the word as plural. Unsure of whether you are using "data" correctly in a sentence? A helpful trick is to replace the word "data" with another plural word, such as "oranges." For example:
"The data show that 92% of this population prefers wearing blue instead of yellow."
"The oranges show that 92% of this population...."
If your filler word (in this case, oranges) flows within your original sentence, you have likely used "data" correctly!
For a more extended discussion, see the article "Data are or data is?" from The Guardian at the following link:
At CMU Libraries, we have a Research Data Services team comprised of experts in all areas of data. We build fluid teams of expertise around complex problems and provide innovative solutions for researchers engaging with data. Want to schedule a consultation? Contact us for more help!
A special thank you to Sue Collins (https://www.library.cmu.edu/about/people/sue-collins), Senior Librarian and Liaison for Engineering & Public Policy and History, for creating much of the original material on which this LibGuide is based.
Banner image courtesy of Franki Chamaki on Unsplash, found here: https://unsplash.com/photos/1K6IQsQbizI. Design made in Canva.