handful of grain

Navigating the Depths of Survey Data:

An Introduction to “Grain” in Data Analysis

Unveiling the Concept of “Grain” in Survey Analytics

In the intricate world of data analytics, especially when dealing with survey data, a key concept often emerges: the “grain” of data. This term might sound obscure to many, but understanding it is vital for anyone working with data. It is a term used frequently when following Kimball data modelling techniques.  At Arrowstream, we often encounter the use of aggregated data for visualising survey results. While this method initially seems efficient, it frequently leads to challenges, especially when adapting to the changing needs of clients. This post aims to shed light on the importance of setting the right level of data detail, or “grain,” and why focusing on individual survey responses can be more beneficial than relying solely on aggregated data.

The Challenges of Over-Aggregation

Aggregating data for visualisation purposes can provide a quick, summarised overview, making it straightforward to identify general trends. However, this method often obscures the finer details that are critical for in-depth analysis. When clients require specific insights or customised reports, relying solely on aggregated data becomes a bottleneck. It necessitates revisiting and reprocessing the data to align with new demands, a process that can be both time-consuming and resource-heavy.

Advantages of Individual Response-Level Grain

  1. Adaptability for Changing Requirements: Data maintained at the individual response level offers unmatched adaptability. It enables analysts to delve into detailed specifics or summarise into broader overviews as required, accommodating a range of client requests without the need for extensive data reprocessing.

  2. Deeper Insights and Personalisation: The granularity of individual response-level data allows for a more detailed understanding. This depth enables tailored analysis, such as examining demographic differences or unique respondent patterns, offering richer and more personalised insights.

  3. Greater Accuracy in Trends: Keeping data at the individual response level ensures a higher level of accuracy in identifying and analysing trends. This approach maintains the original context and subtleties of the data, leading to more trustworthy and valid interpretations.

  4. Simplified Data Integration: When data is granular at the level of individual responses, integrating additional data sources or variables becomes significantly easier. This flexibility is essential in the ever-evolving field of market research, where additional data often needs to be incorporated retrospectively.

  5. Future-Proofing Data Strategies: Opting for an individual response-level approach in handling data is a proactive strategy. It anticipates future demands for more detailed analysis, thus safeguarding your data strategy against the ever-changing needs of market research.

Implementing an Effective Grain Strategy

Implementing a strategy that focuses on the granularity of individual responses requires robust data management tools like Arrowstream’s Purify. These tools are designed to handle complex, detailed datasets while maintaining data integrity and quality, providing the flexibility to aggregate data as necessary.


In the realm of data analytics for survey data, choosing the right level of data detail – or “grain” – is not just a technical decision but a strategic one. By focusing on individual survey responses, businesses equip themselves to quickly and effectively respond to evolving client needs, ensuring their data analysis remains both relevant and insightful. Arrowstream advocates this approach, recognising its importance in delivering top-tier adaptability and excellence in data analytics.