Data types and data collection

What is Data?

Data is raw facts, which by manipulating and processing them we will get information.
Data can be categorized in four main categories.

Data types

  • Discrete data: Numeric variables which values can be recorded.
  • Continuous data: Numeric variables where the values which must be recorded are intrinsically approximate.
  • Ordinal data: Ordinal data are data which are capable of being put into an order.
  • Category (or nominal) data: Category data are information about the type or category of an item.

Data collection methods

Accessing already available documentation

It might happen which different offices in the company face similar issues which might be solved before and it’s available in their existing data. So company can use their already existing documents and data, to make it easier to resolve their current issues, or the similar issues they have and resolve the issues regarding where the data is.

Company can create a database of information and store all of their existing data in different offices they have in one database.

This makes it easy and possible for each office to access the data whenever they need by searching in the database from anywhere they are located.

If in the past a data is collected which might solve similar issues the company has by accessing those data. This data can be found in the same office, or different offices, or even using external sources and statistical data. The external data can be gathered using Internet or books and articles, etc…

  • Advantages: the data is cheap and relative.
  • Disadvantages: It might be out of date; context of the data gathered before by the company might be different than what they need which causes the different result and it might be different than what is required.

Using questionnaires

Company can create Surveys and provide them to their customers in all of their offices or in their website and gather all of the answers and after analysing they will have the data they need. Different ways of using questionnaires are:

1.  Building a website based questionnaire

By building a website all offices can work together world wide and store all of the information in a database which is accessible for all of them.

  • Advantages: Information can be collected quickly, visitors stay anonymous and their answers on their considered issues will be relevant, easy to analyse the answers, visitors can answer questions without pressure.
  • Disadvantages: it’s a time consuming task to create a questionnaire, website visitors might misunderstand the questions so their answers might be incorrect, and its difficult to make the people to answer honestly, also answers might be incomplete and incorrect. Also its hard to make sure only the range of the people they looking for answer the questions to provide relevant data.

2. Emailing the questions to the customers

Company can get emails from customers to provide their suggestions and advises.

  • Advantages: it is cheap, fast and easy to use.
  • Disadvantages: need access to the email addresses of the customers as well as their permission to send email to them (avoid spamming).

3. Asking the customers to answer the questions on the phone

By asking questions on the phone from customers and asking their suggestions.

  • Advantages: relevant data.
  • Disadvantages: expensive, time consuming.


By creating a survey and customers complete the surveys.

  • Advantages: it’s possible to ask many people to complete the survey quickly as well as they stay anonymous, data will be relevant if the questions are in their interest. It’s cheap.
  • Disadvantages: time consuming, not everyone like to complete a survey and their answers might be incomplete or incorrect in some cases.


Company can get data by interviewing with customers or employees in person.

Interview with customers

Company can train interviewers to interview customers in person by asking questions and their suggestions about their services to find out the ways to improve their services, also they can ask about services they are looking for which the company is not currently offering to provide it in the future.

Interview with employees

Also they can interview from their current employees from their different offices and ask them questions and suggestions for resolving issues or ideas to improve their services. Another way of interviewing is for interviewing with people doing similar business.

  • Advantages:
    • Customers can provide their suggestions as well as answering their questions so they can explain the details of why they suggest that answer.
    • Answers will be honest as they are being interviewed in person.
    • Visitors will answer to the most of the questions.
    • Customers can provide subjective data, example what services they can provide.
  • Disadvantages:
    • It will be an expensive task to interview.
    • It will take very long time to interview each person individually
    • For interviewing, company needs to train interviewers.
    • Interviewers might bias the answers


Company can ask visitors to comment about a service which they going to offer and listen to the visitor’s opinions about output of the service. Then they can record the behaviour of the visitors as they interested or not about that service.

Another way of collecting the data in the case study is that the company can find out about similar services which another company offering and then recording the output of that service as a data for themselves. Also they can ask opinions of their employers about the services they going to offer. By gathering all of this data then company can create a knowledge management system. Random visit to each office is an example of observation data collection.

  • Advantages: this way provides direct information about how people think and react about a solution before it accrues and allows more flexibility.
  • Disadvantages: It is very time consuming and expensive, it might not be objective.

Data processing


Company can categories the data they are collecting, for example one category might be categorizing source of data which is from customers or employers or competitors. Another way of classifying the data is based on the subject or issues they send questionnaires.


Another way they can process the gathered data is to sort the data according to the date of the data retrieval. This will provide additional information for example out of date data or new data.


Selecting is another processing data method, for example a company can select the data which they approve after collection or reject them. For example they can reject the surveys with less than 5% answers and approve the ones with more than 5% answers.


Company can calculate the number of answers given per survey to find out the required information. For example they can count number of answers per question.


Another example of processing data is transforming the data into another nature, for example they can process data and mark them with passed or rejected. Or they can analyse the answers and change the data to percentage of correct answers.

Finding links or relationships.

They can analyse the answers to find and find what people are answering the same to particular questions.


  •   Online accessed on: (16 Mar 2009)
  •  Online accessed on: (16 Mar 2009)
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  • Checkland, P.B. and Scholes, J. (1990), Soft Systems Methodology in Action. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Cohen, J.M. and M.J. (1967) The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations. Penguin.
  • Business Basics (2000) Quantitative Methods: Study Text. BPP Business Education Ltd.
  • Conducting an interview for data collection – 16 Mar 2009
    Dr Martin Davies –
  • Collecting Evaluation Data: Direct Observation – 16 Mar 2009
  • Ellen Taylor-Powell and Sara Steele-

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