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What does structured and unstructured information mean?



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Structured information is information ordered in a particular way with a title and maybe a picture or graph. Unstructured is just a random piece of information.

For example, think about some of the websites you have seen. Think about when you saw a first "Home Page" made by a student. Compare it to a website made by a major company. A company's website has structure, planning, order, and makes sense on the page. A student's first Home Page, though, may look chaotic, thrown together, without order or planning.

As another example, look at anyone's room where loose papers are stacked or thrown around. The papers have no order. However, if someone wanted, they could write on papers in an ordered, pre-planned fashion that eventually creates a manuscript that is published into a book.

Information is structured or unstructured depending on whether:

  • thought or pre-planning was used about "order"
  • an "order" was imposed on the "chaos of information"
  • the planning and order decided upon is carried out onto the paper or webpage
  • it makes sense or seems chaotic.

Here is a further example of unordered, unstructured information:

  1. the color red
  2. a hat
  3. a living room
  4. the color white
  5. a couch
  6. a lamp
  7. accents
  8. the color gold
  9. throw pillows
  10. a picture window

Now, for practice, put those 10 items into some kind of pre-planned order. Make a paragraph that "makes sense" using just those 10 items. Draw a realistic, ordered picture using those 10 items.

Here are a couple examples of what I mean:

Example One - Putting Structure to Information

Sue placed the white couch with red throw pillows directly in front of a wide picture window. She used gold accents, such as an old lamp her grandmother gave to her. The walls were a muted red, matching Sue's favorite hat.

Example Two - Putting Structure to Information

The sunlight blazed golden patterns across the red carpet and white couch. The lamp, an unnecessary light source in a room with a picture window, sat unused as an accent. The resident's hat was the only sign that anyone lived in the apartment.

The same imposed structure is needed for computer webpages. You'd organize information. You'd make information convey meaning. You can use text or images to convey information.