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3. Stages of Data: Raw

“Raw” data is yet to be processed, meaning it has yet to be manipulated by a human or computer. Received or collected data could be in any number of formats, locations, etc.. It could be in any of the forms listed in the previous section. But “raw” data is a relative term, inasmuch as when one person finishes processing data and presents it as a finished product, another person may take that product and work on it further, and for them that data is “raw” data. For example, I may consider the General Social Survey data to be “raw” as it will require me to filter out missing entries and collapse variables or fields before I can run my analysis. A researcher who participated in the creation of this survey may not consider the version on the site as “raw” because the “raw” version is the physical paper copies of the file. As you can see, this consideration of what is “raw” is non-definitive and is dependent on the project you are working on and the narrative you want to tell with the results. If you are interested in further exploration and discussion of the ethics of “raw” data, please consider reading Drucker’s article which has made useful distinctions between “data” (understood as given) and “capta” (taken or “captured”) that also troubles the distinction between “raw” and “processed” data.

Data and Labor

As we think about data collection, we should also consider the labor involved in the process. Many researchers rely on Amazon Mechanical Turk (sometimes also referred to as MTurk) for data collection, often paying less than minimum wage for the task. Often the assumption made of these workers is someone who is retired, bored, and participating in online gig work for fun or to kill time. While this may be true for some, more than half of those surveyed in a Pew Research study cite that the income from this work is essential or important. Those who do view the income from this work as essential or important are also mostly from underserved communities.

In addition to being mindful of paying a fair wage to the workers on such platforms, this kind of working environment also brings some further considerations to the data that is collected. For instance, to get close to minimum wage, workers cannot afford to spend much time on each task. Thinking through these circumstances, how do you think it impacts the data we collected?

For a deeper discussion on data and labor, consider Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein’s chapter Show Your Work in Data Feminism.

Challenges for lesson 3

Assignment: Challenge: Raw Data and Labor

  1. Do you think “big data” is “raw data”? Why or why not? Do quantity of data play into our assumptions of “rawness”?
  2. How should we approach data that we have “scraped”?
  3. How do you collect “raw” data? What are some of your practices? What are your field’s practices?
  4. If you have not done so, open up moSmall.csv from your local computer/laptop. As the original file has about 500,000 entries, we’ve taken a random sample of 1% of the original dataset. In this case, would you consider this file to be a “raw” dataset?

  1. I think big data can be raw data depending on how the data is obtained and the processes I need to take before I can apply an analysis. I think that with large datasets, I always assume “rawness” because I won’t need all of the variables or there will be decisions that need to be made about missing entries.
  2. I think my approach to scraped data is similar to big data.
  3. Currently I collect through either or scrap permissible social media sites on my own or with my collaborator (who will have appropriate authorship). I know that my field of psychology is guilty of the discussion on mechanical turk and also often rely on undergraduates for experimental data collection who would have to sign up for experiments for credits in class or do the labour of working in the lab for the promises of bettering their resume for grad school applications.
  4. The dataset is “raw” to me as I will likely be working on removing certain variables/entries to work towards my question.


Try again!

The stages of data is a single iteration process, i.e. there is a fixed stage progression from data collection to visualization.

(Select one of the following)

Try again!

Which of the following statements are true for “raw” data:

(Select all that apply)

Terms Used in Lesson

Can you define the terms below? Hover over each of them to read a preview of the definitions.


There are many different perspectives towards what counts as data. Some cites data as “material or information” for which “an argument, theory, test or hypothesis, or another research output is based” upon (Queensland University of …

See term page

“Raw” Data

“Raw” data is yet to be processed, meaning it has yet to be manipulated by a human or computer. Received or collected data could be in any number of formats, locations, etc.. It could be …

See term page

Workshop overall progress