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Content or Data or Document or Information or Knowledge or Record?

The following is an excerpt from the ARMA Guide to the Information Profession.

One of the biggest issues with the information profession is the misunderstanding and misuse of our information types: content, data, documents, knowledge, and records.

Each information type has a separate and distinct definition, and the terms are not interchangeable. Each type of information is, however, information. For example, all content is information but not all information is content. Confused yet? That’s why these issues exist.

Without a proper understanding of these terms, we cannot have a shared vocabulary across the information profession - this is the most important barrier that we remove in this effort. We believe that the easiest way to understand the differences between these terms is visually:

Everything is Information - ARMA International

Everything, whether unstructured or structured (or even semi-structured), is information. Content is unstructured information while data is structured (this is easiest to understand through the structure of a database). Data tends to be relational while content tends not to be.

Documents are a type of content, semi-structured, through the use of a container (either paper or Word or PDF most commonly). Knowledge is a repurposable type of information that tends to include content more often than data. The goal of knowledge is for it to be shared between individuals within an organization (think of best practices resources). Records, like knowledge, can also be content or data and serve as evidence of a transaction or information that rises to the importance of being preserved.

Through this visual understanding, we know several things:

  • Content is unstructured
  • Documents are semi-structured
  • Data is structured
  • Knowledge can be found in any form
  • Records can be found in any form
  • All documents are content
  • Not all content can be considered documents
  • All documents are Information
  • Not all information is documents
  • All content is Information
  • Not all information is content
  • Content is not data
  • Data is not content
  • Everything is information

Definitive ARMA Resources

 The ARMA Guide to the Information Profession

The ARMA Guide to the Information ProfessionThe ARMA Guide To The Information Profession (originally, the Information Body of Knowledge [InfoBOK]) is the community-driven open source body of knowledge for the Information Profession. An Information Professional is anyone who, for one of their major job tasks, manages or governs information (content, data, documents, knowledge, or Records), the systems that contain information, or the policies and practices by which information workers must abide.

The ARMA Guide To The Information Profession ("ARMA Guide") establishes the major areas of knowledge which must be attained to successfully be an Information Professional and provides a common terminology, understandings, and strategies amongst the various sub-disciplines of the Information Profession.

The ARMA Guide is also available in an expanded version with commentary, analysis, and put in the larger context of a comprehensive understanding of the Information Profession in the book INFORMATION: The Comprehensive Overview of the Information Profession by Nick Inglis, also available through ARMA for purchase.

Download Your Free Copy


 Glossary of Records and Information Management Terms, 5th Ed. - PDF

Glossary of RIM TermsWith an expanded scope that encompasses more than 100 new entries from key information governance (IG) disciplines, this PDF version of the fifth edition of the glossary now defines more than 1,000 terms from disciplines that intersect with records and information management (RIM), including security, privacy, audit, legal, information technology, archives, and business management. From the definitions of records management and information management, to the question of "What is IG?" the glossary covers it all.

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