Types of Data Sources

Data can be collected from multiple internal and external organization sources. This article reviews some of the most common types of data and how it's classified, internally or externally. Be sure to answer the Practice Questions to demonstrate your understanding of the material.

Types of Data Sources

Learning Objectives

  • Identify common types of internal and external data used for business reports
  • Explain the role of primary research and the most common forms that are used
  • Explain secondary research and how it is used to provide support to the report

Figure 1 shows frequency data – the amount of something over a given period of time.

Figure 1. Comparison of word usage from 1600 to 2018

Various types of data are very useful for business reports, and in business reports, you will quickly come across things like revenue (money earned in a given period, usually a year), turnover (people who left the organization in a given period), and many others.

There are a variety of data available when one is constructing a business report. We may categorize data in the following manner:

  • Internal
    • Employee headcount
    • Employee demographics (e.g., sex, ethnicity, marital status)
    • Financials (e.g., revenue, profit, cost of goods sold, margin, operating ratio)
  • External
    • Number of vendors used
    • Number of clients in a company's book of business
    • Size of the industry (e.g. number of companies, total capital)

Internal and external business or organizational data come in two main categories: qualitative and quantitative.

  • Qualitative data are generally non-numeric and require context, time, or variance to have meaning or utility.
    • Examples: taste, energy, sentiments, emotions
  • Quantitative data are numeric and therefore largely easier to understand.
    • Example: temperature, dimensions (e.g., length), prices, headcount, stock on hand

Both types of data are useful for business report writing. Usually a report will feature as much "hard" quantitative data as possible, typically in the form of earnings or revenue, headcount, and other numerical data available. Most organizations keep a variety of internal quantitative data. Qualitative data, such as stories, case studies, or narratives about processes or events, are also very useful, and provide context. We may consider that a good report will have both types of data, and a good report writer will use both types of data to build a picture of information for their readers.

Source: Freedom Learning Group, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-businesscommunicationmgrs/chapter/types-of-data-sources/
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