Data is the pieces of information that we use in order to answer some statistical question. It could be a number or an attribute.
But ultimately, it's the pieces of information that we use to get a more accurate picture of a scenario. Every piece of data helps us to get a more accurate description, which begs the question, how do you obtain data? Where does it come from? Do you just make it up? Where is data?
There are two types of data to serve your purposes. It's possible that the easier route is to go with something someone else has already done. Available data is data that has already been collected by somebody.
Now, who collects data? Well, a lot of places collect data, such as:
The vast majority of sources are trustworthy. However, when using available data, it's important to think critically about what the information is trying to convey. It’s essential to break apart the information and ask yourself these questions:
So, how do you know when you need to gather the information yourself? Gathering information yourself is called raw data. Obviously, if the population doesn’t match your topic of interest, then it is of no value to you, so you need to gather it yourself.
But what about less obvious characteristics such as whether or not a source has an agenda? This is a key point here. Having an agenda, whether intentional or not, can introduce what's called bias.
Often, polling organizations and news organizations and government entities try to do the best job they can to get relevant information. It's not usually intentionally put out there. But sometimes it is when they're trying to push some kind of agenda.
If you choose to collect your own data, you must think critically and ask yourself these questions:
Collecting data is important because it's the source of statistics. Think about data as the raw means of creating something useful. If you collect your data well, the statistics are going to be accurate. If you collect your data poorly, then your data is poor. There's no rescuing that.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Jonathan Osters.