I have some data that was directly measured by a sensor (it wasn't processed). I believe we can qualify this data as "raw data", but an English native speaker told me that it seems like a poor word choice. Is there any alternative? (In French we would call it "signal brut")

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    Really? Raw data seems fine to me. Did they explain why? Was there an example sentence or anything like that where it seemed out of place?
    – user230
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 16:16
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    Raw data is exactly the right name for this data. Don't let them persuade you otherwise. developers.google.com/fit/android/sensors
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 16:18
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    'Raw data' is correct here. Even some native speakers don't understand English perfectly because most of them go on feeling, habit, and what they're used to hearing rather than what is correct. Now, how you used it could have made it sound awkward, depending on the sentence, but referring to the data as 'raw data' is not incorrect. The phrase itself is perhaps unusual because it isn't usually necessary to specify that the data is raw, but either way, it's still correct. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 16:23
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    I agree with @Jim, you can also check wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_data
    – Dzyann
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 16:27
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    Maybe the problem wasn't the word raw, but the use of the word data in place of signal. For example, saying brain data processing can be ambiguous, while brain signal processing is clearer, in my opinion. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 16:36

3 Answers 3


I have some data that was directly measured by a sensor....

Raw physiological signals such as EKG might contain key information to predict a medical condition, but are challenging to mine.

The sensors are not measuring data. Their measurements are recorded as data. We "mine" the data (ore metaphor), not the signals.

Not to nitpick, but is that which the sensor measures truly a "signal"? Are the sensors "overhearing" the brain signaling to itself? Or are the electronic discharges artefacts of the brain's chemical signaling process?

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    Actually if you want to get really picky, the sensors don't measure, they sample :) The measurement is part of the processing that turns the raw data from the sensor into information. From an Electrical Engineering perspective, a signal conveys information about a phenomenon and information plus noise is data. The sensor samples data to capture a signal which we extract through processing. I agree with you that the data is "raw", not the signal.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 20:58

Data is not the same thing as signal.

If we're talking about signals, I would write

  • unprocessed ECG signal
  • original ECG signal

Several quotes come up in search engines with these combinations, especially with the second option.

I would prefer the second choice but if it's the first sentence of your incipit, it doesn't work that well, how is somebody supposed to know what you mean by original if you haven't talked about any processing yet?

You have this problem because it's redundant information. It's obvious from the context that you're talking about a generic ECG signal and so the reader will not think you're talking about a processed signal or anything, so deleting the adjective altogether is maybe the easiest solution.

Physiological signals such as EKG might contain key information to predict a medical condition, but are challenging to mine.

How's that sound?

Added note: google books turns up a quote on a book by Japanese authors where they say crude signal but I'd avoid that personally.


As an electrical engineer, I would say that "raw signal" and "raw data" are both correct technical English. If you want to emphasize what you didn't do to the data or signal, you could call it "unfiltered" or "unprocessed" or something of that nature.

Personally, I would say that data is a collection of information, and a signal is information in transit. If you already have the information from the sensor (say, in a table), it's raw data. If you're talking about the electrical signal (voltage) that comes out of the sensor, it's a raw signal.

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