Data sources may be classified as either internal (organizational) or external sources of information.
Internal sources of organizational data are so varied that it is difficult to provide generalizations about their use. Accounting and management information systems create and store much of the internal data. Research and development, planning, and marketing functions also contribute. Examples are departmental reports, production summaries, financial and accounting reports, and marketing and sales studies. The collection methods used are unique to the specific situation, and collection success depends on knowing just where and how to look. Sometimes the information may exist in central files (i.e., at headquarters), in computer database, or in departmental chronological files. In other organizations, a central library keeps all relevant information. Systematic searches should be made through exploratory interviews with everyone who handles the information. Often company librarians, MIS. PR/communications, or departmental secretaries can help in pinpointing critical data sources. Internal data sources may be the only source of information for many studies.
External sources are created outside the organization and are more varied than internal sources. There are also better defined methods for finding them. This discussion is restricted to published sources, although other sources of information may be useful.
Published sources of data can be classified into five categories. The newest and fastest growing one is computerized database. They are composed of interrelated data files. The files are sets of records grouped together for storage on some medium. Access may be through online search or CD-ROM. Online databases are often specialized and focus on information about a particular field.
Major source of published information consists of diverse materials from special collections. Within this category there are many reference books, each a compendium of a range of information. A second group includes university publications, of which there are master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, and research records. A third group includes company publications such as financial reports, company policy statements, speeches by prominent executives, sales literature, product specifications, and many others. There are miscellaneous information sources consisting of the productions of various trade, professional and other associations. These organizations often publish statistical compilation, research report, and proceeding of meeting. Finally, there are personal document. These are used in historical and other social science research, but less frequently in business studies.