What is data all about?
Data are the facts or bits of information that come from observations. Data can be numbers
or words. Data are a very important part of the scientific method.
Scientist often collect data to find out what is going on. For example, by collecting
information year after year, scientists can see how populations change over time. Students
in Santa Barbara collected data on whale sightings in the Santa Barbara
Channel to get a better understanding of the kinds of whales present and how many there are. Collecting
this type of information helps natural resource managers see what's present in an ecosystem,
so that they can make more informed decisions.
See examples of data collection and presentation from actual research:
How can we look at data?
Data can be hard to look at because they are a bunch of numbers and names. We can only see and understand a
few things at a time. To organize all these numbers and names, scientists use tables.
They also may use the data to create pictures or graphs.
How about some examples?
If we read and record temperature from a thermometer at different times we will get data. If we count the number
of dolphins sighted while on a boat we will get data. The resulting data will have numerical values, like "50," and
descriptions of those values, such as 50 "dolphins" or 50 "degrees fahrenheit". One way to show this dolphin
sighting data is on a line graph.