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A formal definition of Big Data based on its essential features

Andrea De Mauro (Department of Enterprise Engineering, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.)
Marco Greco (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Cassino, Italy)
Michele Grimaldi (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Cassino, Italy)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 4 April 2016




The purpose of this paper is to identify and describe the most prominent research areas connected with “Big Data” and propose a thorough definition of the term.


The authors have analysed a conspicuous corpus of industry and academia articles linked with Big Data to find commonalities among the topics they treated. The authors have also compiled a survey of existing definitions with a view of generating a more solid one that encompasses most of the work happening in the field.


The main themes of Big Data are: information, technology, methods and impact. The authors propose a new definition for the term that reads as follows: “Big Data is the Information asset characterized by such a High Volume, Velocity and Variety to require specific Technology and Analytical Methods for its transformation into Value.”

Practical implications

The formal definition that is proposed can enable a more coherent development of the concept of Big Data, as it solely relies on the essential strands of current state-of-the-art and is coherent with the most popular definitions currently used.


This is among the first structured attempts of building a convincing definition of Big Data. It also contains an original exploration of the topic in connection with library management.



De Mauro, A., Greco, M. and Grimaldi, M. (2016), "A formal definition of Big Data based on its essential features", Library Review, Vol. 65 No. 3, pp. 122-135.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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