Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Data is the term usually reserved in social science for empirical data that is in a quantitative form. In information technology data is any information input into, and held by, a computer.

explanatory context


analytical review

Mann and Richards (undated) describe 'data' as follows

In simple terms, the ‘things’ collected. However, data are [note the use of the plural here – datum is the singular form] should not be treated as ‘facts’ or ‘information’. Atkinson, for example, has argued that for the qualitative researcher data are affected by what is as ‘readable’ or ‘writable’, while Erickson claims that materials collected in the field (e.g. fieldnotes) are not data in themselves but the basis for constructing data through analysis. What really matters is that you think about the data in the context of your research aims and procedures. [Source lost]

The (undated) defines data as

1. Information in raw or unorganized form (such as alphabets, numbers, or symbols) that refer to, or represent, conditions, ideas, or objects. Data is limitless and present everywhere in the universe.

2. Computers: Symbols or signals that are input, stored, and processed by a computer, for output as usable information.

Colorado State University (1993–2013) defines data as:

Recorded observations, usually in numeric or textual form.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 1.4.1

Sources, undated, 'Data', available at, accessed 21 January 2013, still available 3 June 2019.

Colorado State University, 1993–2013, Glossary of Key Terms available at, accessed 3 February 2013, still available 3 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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