In today's society of fast-paced crime series on television and high-tech action-filled mystery movies, people are exposed to a broad range of media where the words data and evidence are used interchangeably. It is, therefore, not surprising to say that this could be confusing due to the misconception that data automatically tells us something important about an investigation. Today we spent our time learning the difference between data and evidence.
To sum up, all data is information. However, evidence is data that can support a claim made by a scientist. Put in another way, all evidence is data but not all data is evidence.
To facilitate this concept, we all participated in an activity called Murder Mystery (created by James Rudd - a former chemical education graduate student from Iowa State University. I provided a scenario to the students entitled, Who Killed Mr. Xavier, and they were then to develop a solution to the crime. The scenario purposefully does not provide enough data for students to be able to support any claims that they make with evidence. However, the superb imagination and strong opinions of 5th graders did not let such a detail stop them from making claims. Instead of using scientific data and reasoning, the students used their own imaginations to "create" evidence - which, as any good judge woudl tell you, really is not evidence.
We all had a good time listening to the creative explanations of what had happened to Mr. Xavier. However, due to the lack of information, we will never really know what happened. We can only speculate.