Difference Between Data and Information

Difference Between Data and Information

A lot of times, when a scientist is researching on a particular subject, they are expected to gather their facts first before they can make any conclusions about the matter. These facts, at first, are probably out of context and unorganized. So it is left for the researcher to study them closely in order to understand and organize them in a way that makes sense.

When the facts were still unorganized, they are referred to as data. After they have been organized in a sensible manner, they are referred to as information. From this instance, you can see that there is a difference between data and information.

They have a lot in common, but they are not the same. We’ll go into more details about this subject. We’ll be answering the questions what is data and information and what is the difference between data and information? We’ll also describe them further using a comparison table, as well as show you some examples of data and information.

Definition of Data

Data is defined as a set of raw facts and details that has not undergone any form of processing. It can be anything at all that makes any form of sense including but not limited to numbers, symbols, observations, figures, descriptions, and text.

From another perspective, it can also be defined as unorganized details that do not make any complete meaning on their own. This means it has to be studied and analyzed to an extent before it can be of any real value in application.

Although it is largely perceived as meaningless, anything referred to as data, on its own, is expected to meet some requirements. The requirements assess whether the said subjects can serve specific purposes in certain applications.

  • Should be suitable for communication
  • Can be interpreted or processed by a human or a machine
  • Should be accurate in order to properly ascertain the situation on the ground
  • Should be complete in a certain sense

Finally, it is important to note that data can be misleading specifically if it does not possess the characteristics mentioned above.

Definition of Information

Information is defined as a set of raw materials that have been processed, organized, and structured to make sense. From these definitions and the information vs data comparison, it is reasonable why many perceive these terms as synonyms.

However, the difference is in the modification. The latter is still in its raw state and has not been processed in any way, while the former has been modified to make sense and serve a specific purpose.

Note that this set of processed materials is relative. This means its raw form has to be processed in a specific manner to serve a specific purpose. For instance, the letters of the English alphabet are raw per se and can be used to form meaningful English words. However, those same letters may be entirely useless in forming meaningful Korean words irrespective of how much effort you put into organizing them.

Here are a few characteristics expected of every piece of information.

  • Should be accurate and meaningful
  • Should be easy to obtain
  • Must be reliable to ascertain confident application
  • All appropriate specifics required by a user should be contained in it
  • Must be presentable, up to date, and valuable

Note that there are some similarities in the characteristics of data vs information. This is yet another reason people may perceive them as having the same meaning.

Data vs Information Comparison Table

There are quite numerous instances, but we’ll only stick to 5 differences between data and information.

Basis of Comparison Data Information
Definition Any fact that is unorganized and does not make a lot of sense on its own A set of data that has been structured and presented in a meaningful context
Dependence Does not depend on information Depends on data
Function No specific function Has a specific function
Nature Unprocessed Processed
SignificanceLittle or noneImportant and meaningful
OwnershipUsually private property and not for saleMostly available for sale to the public
Knowledge levelLowMedium
ApplicationIs not directly applied in decision-making processesWidely and directly applied in decision-making processes
Examples Numbers, symbol, words, statements, etc. She sold 4 million copies of her book, star is the symbol of excellence, etc.

Conclusion of the Main Difference Between Data vs Information

After all that has been said, there are two basic keywords that answer the question what’s the difference between data and information? And that is “meaning” and “context”. These two terms make all the difference.