In paragraphs should the term "Big Data" be capitalised? I seam to be finding contradicting information as it is a name for something but also a common term.

Which is correct?

When the volume and complexity of this cannot be supported by off-the-shelf IT solutions, custom IT frameworks are needed; this results in the data being classed as Big Data.

or

When the volume and complexity of this cannot be supported by off-the-shelf IT solutions, custom IT frameworks are needed; this results in the data being classed as big data.

Please also explain why - not just which is right!

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Big data being an IT concept, I would use the same rules as for terms like OOP (object oriented programming), which usually isn’t capitalized either.

IBM does not capitalize big data, and neither does Wikipedia.

Interestingly, on the site of one of the big players in big data, Hadoop, I can find hardly any mention of big data. They do mention large datasets :)

  • +1 for the research effort, and the Hadoop knowledge :) – tim.baker Apr 5 '14 at 14:34

In the case you describe above, you're referring to the size of the data set, not the collective of companies that service it. It is not a proper noun.

Do not capitalize.

By comparison: when you are creating a collective like Big Oil, Big Data, (describing AT&T, Verizon, Cisco, etc.) you are creating an entity. Most entities are then named. And most names are then proper nouns. Most proper nouns are then capitalized in English.

So, capitalize in that case: Big Data.

Here is an example from Engadget the respected tech blog:

Monsanto pushes Big Data-driven planting but farmers are skeptical

Engadget is an especially reliable source because they do not use title capitalization. In other words, they capitalized it on purpose instead of just because it's in a title.

  • Big data is used to talk about data with high volume, velocity, and variety. The term means much more than "large datasets", which is why some people choose to capitalize Big Data in order to show the difference between Big Data and large datasets. However, as explained in the first answer, both wikipedia and IBM do not capitalize big data, even though they are talking about more than large datasets. This seems like a good indicator to stop using Big Data. – galgalesh Sep 4 '15 at 11:53

"Big Data" sounds like "Big Oil" or "Big Steel", i.e. like it is the name of some conspiracy or collusion among wealthy capitalists against the public good. It makes it sound like you think Google and the NSA are conspiring together to create custom IT frameworks to revoke the people's right to off-the-shelf IT solutions.

I think I would say instead:

When the volume and complexity of this cannot be supported by off-the-shelf IT solutions, custom IT frameworks are needed; this results in the data being classed as "big data."

  • No offence, but that isn't the sort of reasoning I was looking for – tim.baker Apr 5 '14 at 12:41
  • I'm not sure what kind of reasoning you were looking for then. Capitalization indicates that a noun is a proper name, and the specific use of "Big X" as a proper noun in colloquial American English indicates that X is some kind of conspiracy. That's why you should use the lowercase version, because "big data" isn't a conspiracy. – shane Apr 5 '14 at 12:51
  • No. The "big data" being referred to in the OP's original question isn't a cabal of companies, it is literally a dataset that grows so large that it needs support from custom frameworks, rather than off the shelf solutions. A collective of companies doesn't need a framework, a dataset does. – shane Apr 5 '14 at 12:57
  • From OP: "the data being classed as Big Data." It is the data, not the companies that generate it, or the frameworks that support it, that is being described as "big data". Since "Big Data" would indicate a group of colluding businesses, and the OP isn't describing the data as a group of colluding businesses, he can't describe that data as "Big Data" without confusing his readers, which is why he shouldn't capitalize it. "Some data is so big it requires custom frameworks, call that kind of data big data" – shane Apr 5 '14 at 13:05
  • No worries. I'm still drinking my first cup of coffee this morning too. – shane Apr 5 '14 at 13:08

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