Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Data in different disciplines

data in different disciplines
I’m a microbiologist, so I come across data in terms of cell counts, calculating the number of colony-forming units per mill. I would use data in two ways. The first one would be to demonstrate certain economic arguments and the second one would be to make forecasts, to predict the future. So my subject is cell biology and cancer biology. Sometimes you come across quantitative data using replicates of a drug treatment, for example. In history I think it would be mainly in aspects– the study of social and economic change, electoral data. That sort of thing is probably the types of data that a student would use most often.
I’m an ecologist, and ecologists use data in every single question they try and ask of the natural world. I would come across data in law, and using it in scenarios such as an accountant’s negligence case, where you’d be looking at a large volume of accounts and other financial documents and bank statements. Students are generally OK in understanding data, though sometimes they need to be more precise in what they’re talking about. So they’ll sometimes introduce percentages, and we’re not sure a percentage of what– is often a comment that goes in the margin. There’s also a tendency, however, of history students to avoid using tables and graphs when they would present data much more clearly than using words.
I’d perhaps expect the student to develop the skills of being able to critically question the factual information they’re given. How was that information derived? Were the experiments properly controlled? First year students tend to be generally quite poor in understanding data and data analysis and how it’s used. So they’re very good at handling numbers, but very poor at understanding what the numbers mean and how they can go on to answer questions.

Being able to use data is relevant in so many subjects and how well students can handle data will determine which subjects they will find most rewarding to study.

Here is a video of lecturers talking about using data.

This article is from the free online

Preparing for University

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education