Data Element

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Definition A unit of data for which the definition, identification, representation (term used to represent it), and permissible values are specified by means of a set of attributes.
Explanation The general idea of an Element is of a single 'stand-alone' (physical) object or conceptual item. Elements are often expressed as constituents and play roles in Configurations.

From a metadata perspective, the term data element is an atomic unit of data that has precise meaning or precise semantics. In traditional data practice a data element has: An identification such as a data element name A clear data element definition One or more representation terms Optional enumerated values Code (metadata) A list of synonyms to data elements in other metadata registries Synonym ring

Examples Exmple The data element “age of a person” with values consisting of all combinations of 3 decimal digits.

EXAMPLE 2 A personnel record that includes the data elements "name" and "address". In the context of the personnel record, "name" and "address" function as an indivisible unit, e.g., the data element "name" and the data element "address" each can be stored and retrieved as an indivisible unit. However, in a different context, "address" itself may be considered a record that contains its own data elements "street address", "city", "postal code", "country".

In a database an example of a data element is a data field. One also says that a data element is an attribute of a data entity.

References ISO 11179-1

Bateman, Henschel, and Rinaldi 1995, p. 13.

Scope RDA DFT Interest Group
Status In discussion