Information Systems research so far has not come up with a clear conceptualization of the central term of ‘information’. A similar claim can be made about the term ‘data’, which is used inconsistently, but often taken to mean raw information. The field would benefit from clear definitions that distinguish these terms from each other. This paper argues for seeing data as facts of the world and information as data stored and processed in information systems. It aligns this with the ontology of critical realism and outlines how this view can guide future research. Information systems are seen as efforts to capture the facts of the world from the domain of the actual and store them in the domain of the empirical in order to make them accessible for analysis. This view is especially useful in the context of big data research, but also helps to justify why explanatory research in the social science tradition is still essential.