(Last Updated On: March 14, 2024)

Knowledge forms an intricate cumulative system of verified empirical facts, guiding tenets derived through rigorous deductive exploration, and complex conceptual understandings developed across generations through inductive processes. 

What is knowledge encompasses the entire body of thoroughly vetted information and the logical connections and contextual understandings regarding specific subject matter domains. Underneath the singular umbrella term of “knowledge” exists a mosaic of classifications, categories, and subtypes that each impart their unique flavor. 

The depth to which one seeks to understand any phenomenon determines the knowledge that will be realized. The following are essential types of knowledge:

1. Tacit vs Explicit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge denotes the more ingrained knowledge from experiences, insights, intuitive feelings, and practical know-how. This knowledge resides in one’s mind and is more challenging to extract and transmit in communication.

Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that can be clearly expressed, documented in writing, elucidated, and passed on to others. This includes details, step-by-step procedures, instructional manuals, and other written information. 

2. General vs. Specific Knowledge

These two types of knowledge are reached due to the consideration of the depth to which each delves. Examining the contrast between general and specific knowledge sheds light on the difference between breadth and depth of expertise as part of defining what is knowledge.

General knowledge: Consists of wide-ranging concepts and awareness across multiple disciplines and domains. This includes broad knowledge about areas like history, science, arts, and culture that provide baseline familiarity. General knowledge establishes an essential foundation for understanding what is knowledge.

Specific knowledge: Delves are much deeper into a particular specialized area. Specific knowledge encompasses the nuanced facts, granular details, and niche expertise that allow one to become a subject matter expert. 

3. Declarative vs Procedural vs Metacognitive Knowledge

Declarative knowledge: Refers to knowledge of factual information and abstract concepts within a field of study or expertise. Having robust declarative knowledge means being conversant in the facts, figures, terminology, and overarching ideas of a topic area. 

Procedural knowledge: Enables fluently executing specialized tasks, processes, and procedures based on experience and practised skills. Procedural knowledge is vital for translating concepts into tangible outcomes and deliverables. 

Metacognitive knowledge: Involves higher-order thinking about one’s thought processes and cognitive orientation to information. Cultivating metacognitive knowledge through practices like critical thinking and reflective journaling allows continual enhancement of mental models. 

As we analyze different knowledge categories like declarative, procedural, and metacognitive, we see that the essence of what is knowledge manifests quite differently, from abstract ideas to tangible abilities to deeper self-awareness. What constitutes actual knowledge touches on these connected ways of understanding the world.


In summary, knowledge is multilayered, existing along spectra rather than discrete categories. As we unpack the concept of what is knowledge, we uncover many subtleties in how information is organized, structured, contextualized, and applied. 

Knowledge can take the form of broad truths or specific technical details, be explicitly coded or intrinsically understood. Ultimately, the essence of knowledge is enabling effective, meaningful decisions and actions, whatever form it takes, which eventually result in some change.