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“Data source types” vs. “types of data sources”

Please can you tell me that what the difference is between "types of data" and "data types". Are they the same?

For example, do these sentences have the same meaning?

  1. This method can be used for different types of data.
  2. This method can be used for different data types.
  • 1
    Same meaning. One's shorter than the other. That's all.
    – user21497
    Dec 6, 2012 at 13:35
  • Thanks Bill, but which one is better for scientific papers?
    – A.Gh
    Dec 6, 2012 at 14:17
  • Either one is fine. It all depends on your writing style. Types of data is a little more formal than data types. The shorter expression is probably better in the abstract where there's a word limit.
    – user21497
    Dec 6, 2012 at 14:19
  • This is a duplicate of easily two dozen questions. Next to impossible to search for. We need a meaningful tag.
    – RegDwigнt
    Dec 6, 2012 at 14:24
  • 1
    @RegDwighт and Matt - I agree that this takes the form of many similar questions, but there is a potential semantic difference in these two terms so I think the question is legitimate. I agree a good tag for this type of question would be helpful.
    – Joel Brown
    Dec 6, 2012 at 14:47

2 Answers 2


If you are a programmer, data types has a connotation which is more specific than types of data.

A data type, when used as technical jargon, implies very specific domain and format restrictions. For example, a "signed integer stored in 32 binary bits".

If you intend to discuss this particular jargon meaning, then you should definitely use data types. If you intend the non-jargon meaning, then both expressions are equally valid. Since you are asking about use in a scientific paper, you should be careful that the jargon meaning isn't mistakenly inferred by readers if the context of your paper is such that this confusion is likely.


I basically agree with JoelBrown, but let me elaborate a little.

In the IT world, as JoelBrown says, a "data type" is a technical term referring to a specific format of data, like "32-bit integer" or "date stored as the number of days since Jan 1, 1970". Or arguably in a slightly more general sense to refer to a category of data that can be used in specified ways in a given programming language or other software product, like "string" or "boolean". (The difference I am getting at here is that we may not care exactly how, say, a boolean is stored, whether it is a single bit, an integer where zero means false and non-zero means true, the character T or F, etc. We just care how it works in the program.)

"Type of data" would be read by most IT people as a general phrase whose exact meaning must be determined by context, rather than as a technical term with a well-established meaning.

Thus, if you wanted to say that your programming language supports both 32 and 64 bit integers, you should refer to these as "data types". But if you want to distinguish how your software product uses data imported from other systems versus how it uses data entered directly by the user, you should call these "two types of data".

(It suddenly occurs to me that your question may have nothing to do with IT. If you are talking about different kinds of data in a statistical analysis with no reference to whether that data was collected and processed on a computer or manually, then nothing I've said applies. :-)

  • Thank you very much. Honestly, I'm master student in computer science and I'm writing a paper in bio-informatics field. So, what I said is about some data such DNA, RNA or protein sequences. My algorithm also works with morphological attributes in organisms like feather, color of eyes, ... as input data.
    – A.Gh
    Dec 6, 2012 at 20:14

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