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Data information knowledge and wisdom in library science,

What is Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom?

The DIKW Pyramid represents the relationships between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. Each building block is a step towards a higher level – first comes data, then is information, next is knowledge and finally comes wisdom. Each step answers different questions about the initial data and adds value to it. The more we enrich our data with meaning and context, the more knowledge and insights we get out of it so we can take better, informed and data-based decisions.

Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom are the products of the mind. The Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom are evaluated in an ascending scale of values, Data having the least value, Wisdom the greatest.


The word “data” is Latin in origin and literally, it means anything that is given. In sum, the term includes facts, figures, letters, symbols, words, charts, and graphs that represent an idea, object, or condition.

According to Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, Data are “Known facts or things used as a basis for interference or reckoning.”

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines data as “something given or admitted facts or principles granted or presented, that upon which an interference or argument is based, or from which an ideal system of any sort is constructed.”

UNESCO defines data as “facts, concepts or instructions in a formalized manner suitable for communication, interpretation or processing by human or automatic means”.

In simple, Data is a unit of fact and a raw material of information. It is derived by observation and experiences. By nature, data are either quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative data are numerical and qualitative data are descriptive. It is also possible to transform qualitative data into numerical values. Additionally, in science, data can also be graphic in nature. The data possesses the following characteristics.


The following are the properties of data:

  • Amenability to Use. Data must be amenable to use. The use may differ with the context.
  •  Accuracy. Accuracy is an essential property of data.
  •  Essence. Data should be compressed and refined. Only the refined data can present the essence of value.
  •  Clarity. Data should necessarily display clarity.


The word “information” is derived from two Latin words “forma” and “formatio”. Both the words convey the notion of giving shape to something and of forming a pattern. Information is the processed data, organized and presented by someone. The data becomes information

when these are collected, processed, interpreted, presented, or communicated to someone in an organized or in logical form to facilitate a better comprehension of the concerned issue. Information is the knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event in any communicable form. It is a structured collection of data, i.e., sets of data, the relationship between data. It consists of data that have been retrieved, processed, or otherwise used for informative or inference purposes, argument, or as a basis for forecasting or decision making. Let us mention some of the definitions of Information: n According to Harrod’s Librarian’s Glossary and Reference book compiled by Ray Prytherch, 7th ed, 1990, information is “an assemblage of data in a comprehensible form capable of communication”.

Hayes defines information as the “result of data, usually formalized in processing”.

Stevens has defined information as “the factual data, ideas and other the knowledge emanating from any segment of society that are identified as being of value sometimes gathered on a regular basis, organized in some fashion, transmitted to others and used in some meaningful fashion”.

Davis has defined information as “data that has been processed into a form that is meaningful to the recipient and is of real perceived value in the current or prospective decision”.

According to A.J. Evans information is a “sensible statement, opinion, fact, concept or idea, or an association of statement, opinions or ideas. It is closely associated with knowledge in that once information has been assimilated, correlated and understood it becomes knowledge”.

Mikhailov has cited Brillounin’s definition. According to the “information is the raw material and consists of a mere collection of data”.



The word “knowledge” means an assured belief or that which is known. It is the information read, heard or seen and understood. It is an organized set of statements of facts or ideas – presenting reasoned judgments or an experimental result that is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form. When information is stored in the mind, it constitutes knowledge, particularly when relationships are established between items of information.

The Webster’s New International Dictionary of English language defines knowledge as, “Familiarity gained by actual experience, practical skill, technical acquaintance”. It has also been defined by Webster as “Acquaintance with fact; the state of being aware of something or of possessing information; hence scope of information”.
When a man knows the entities (things or concepts), knowledge is established. As man knew more and more about entities knowledge grew. In order that knowledge already gathered is not lost from the scope of posterity it must exist in the recorded and stored format. Due to the comparatively larger age of humans, living of three generations in a family within society, ability to reason and analyze and ability to transfer the accumulated knowledge to its posterity increase his/her stock of knowledge. Knowledge is the ability of an actor to respond to a body of facts and principles accumulated over a period of time. The quality of knowledge depends on the properties of the agent. Knowledge can be viewed in terms of the following:

  1. Knowledge is created and modified by new information.
  2. Knowledge is universally regarded as a much wider concept than information, both in the everyday world and within the specialty theory and practice.
  3. When information is applied by people it becomes knowledge.
  4.  Knowledge is the structure or organization of information including the relationship among items of information.

Further, knowledge is individual to each person and does not depend upon humans to exist; when it exists apart from the information it can only be useful if it becomes a commodity or a resource. Knowledge can only reside in an organic brain. As soon as it is objectified outside of a biological organism it becomes disembodied information, capable of entering production similar to a manufactured product or commodity. Some of the characteristics of knowledge are:

  • It is the basis for action.
  • It is contained in the subjective realm.
  •  It is a stock, largely resulting from the flow, inputs of information.
  •  It is structured, coherent, and often of enduring significance.
  • It is dynamic, ever-growing, and continuing.


Wisdom is the top of the DIKW hierarchy and to get there, we must answer questions such as ‘why do something’ and ‘what is best’. In other words, wisdom is knowledge applied in action. Wisdom is distilled and integrated knowledge and understanding. It is the most precious human capital in all developmental processes. Cleveland, Ohio Association for System Management, 1979 has treated raw data from “birth” into evaluated form as information, through maturity as knowledge, to “death” and inclusion in the knowledge base.

It may be noted in passing that in the common social processes, data, information, and knowledge are regarded as mutually sustaining elements at times distinctly different, on occasions overlapping, and interchangeable. Both data and information have intrinsic properties. While information is shareable, knowledge is individual to each person. Again, information depends upon humans to exist but knowledge does not depend upon only humans to exist. Information is the aggregation and assemblage of data in a comprehensible form recorded on paper or in some other medium and is capable of communication. Knowledge is the potential for action on the information. The information, knowledge, and wisdom in their totality constitute valuable human intellectual assets

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