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July 26, 2012

Data Is, or Data Are?




by Tyler Krupa

This week, we address another item on the list of APA Style points that writers find most challenging (on the basis of the article by Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, & Frels, 2010; also see their guest post to our blog): the misuse of the word data.

As noted in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual (p. 79), the plural form of some nouns of foreign origin—particularly those that end in the letter a—may appear to be singular and can cause authors to select a verb that does not agree in number with the noun. This is certainly the case with the word data. As shown in the Publication Manual (p. 96), the word datum is singular, and the word data is plural. Plural nouns take plural verbs, so data should be followed by a plural verb. To help clear up any confusion regarding the proper use of these terms, I list examples of datum and data being used correctly below:

Each datum matches the location of an object to a coordinate on the map.

Although we have compiled the results, these data are the focus of another report and are not described here.

Keep in mind that most of the time the plural form data should be used. Scientific results are built upon testing things multiple times across multiple people, and we draw conclusions from the aggregate, not the individual, data points. Therefore, when referring to the collective results, be sure to use the plural form:

The data regarding age show that older participants performed just as well as younger participants.

The data challenge the notion that more directive questions are necessary when interviewing children who have mild intellectual disabilities.

Another helpful hint to remember is that the term data set is two words, but database is one word:

We generated 20 complete data sets.

It remains unlikely that the current empirical database could support such analyses.

We hope these examples help to clear up any confusion regarding the proper use of data. However, if you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment.



For seventh edition guidelines, visit the seventh edition APA Style blog.

This search includes only sixth edition blog archive results:


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