Data collection Measurement

The Age of Data

Data, information and knowledge

Professional Monitoring and Evaluation is based on hard facts: data, information, knowledge and understanding. Let us take a closer look at these concepts:

Hierarchy of data (know what) that can lead to information (know what), knowledge (know how) and understanding (know why)


As you will know, data is a collection of objective facts, such as numbers, words, images, measurements, observations or even just descriptions of things. In other words: Data is chunks of raw facts about the state of the world.

For example: crime rates, unemployment statistics, but also handwritten notes of interviews, or a recorded description of an observation.

Data is raw, unorganized and lacks context. To be useful, it needs to be turned into information.


Information is data that has meaning and purpose. It can help us understand what is happening.

For example: the noises that I hear are data. The meaning of these noises – for example a running car engine – is information.


Information can serve to create knowledge. Knowledge can instruct how to do something.

And finally, knowledge can be turned into understanding that explains why it is happening.

Data collection

Our toolbox for primary data collection

To collect primary data (data that we need to collect first ourselves), we can rely on a rather sophisticated tool box– largely from social sciences – that has been developed over decades.

There are tools for quantitative and qualitative data collection. Here is a list of some of the important tools available to us: