'Data' is a very broad term, covering a wide range of type of information used in research. The nature of research data can vary widely depending on discipline, type of project, and the stage of the research process. For example, it might be:
- Textual, numerical, or consisting of images or audio-visual resources
- Qualitative or quantitative
- Structured (for example in a spreadsheet or database) or unstructured
- In a preliminary or final form
- In a digital or print format - or in some case, may include physical artefacts
The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) offers this definition:
Representations of observations, objects, or other entities used as evidence of phenomena for the purposes of research or scholarship.
Different definitions may apply in different contexts. For example, the University of Oxford Policy on the Management of Data Supporting Research Outputs defines the data it is concerned with as:
The recorded information (regardless of the form or the media in which they may exist) necessary to support or validate a research project’s observations, findings or outputs.