2.4 Big data: Definitions

  • Classic view: ‘For political scientists […] phrase seems to evoke a cognitive mapping onto our old continuum of “small-N” vs. “large-N ,” implying perhaps “really large N”’ (Monroe 2013, 1)
  • Broad view: “‘big data’ - the ability of society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights or goods and services of significant value” (Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier 2012)
  • Wikipedia: “refer[s] to the study and applications of data sets that are too complex for traditional data-processing application software to adequately deal with.” (Wikipedia)
    • “Big data challenges include capturing data, data storage, data analysis, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating, information privacy and data source.” (Wikipedia)
    • “Big data was originally associated with three key concepts: volume, variety, and velocity. Other concepts later attributed with big data are veracity (i.e., how much noise is in the data) and value.” (Wikipedia)


Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor, and Kenneth Cukier. 2012. Big Data: A Revolution That Transforms How We Work, Live, and Think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Monroe, Burt L. 2013. “The Five Vs of Big Data Political Science Introduction to the Virtual Issue on Big Data in Political Science Political Analysis.” Polit. Anal. 21 (V5): 1–9.