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What Is Source Data?

Woman entering data into a computer.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Source data is a term used to describe the origin of information that is used to create electronic data. Data of this type is usually created in one of two ways. One approach is to scan hard copy documents and create electronic files of those hard copies. A different approach is to read the information on the hard copy and enter the data into an electronic format with the use of a keyboard and some type of data processing software. This allows the source data to be placed into storage while the companion electronic data can be utilized when and as desired, without the need to constantly retrieve the original source document.

Scanning source data is a common approach to preserving valuable hard copy records that may be in danger of deterioration. The process of scanning effectively makes it possible to create an electronic image of the original document. Doing so is especially helpful with source data such as historical documents such as business contracts, census reports, deeds, and other types of records. By making use of the electronic copies, it is possible to refer to and make use of the information found within the documents without subjecting the originals to additional wear and tear.

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There are some examples of scanners that do more than simply create an electronic image of source data. One example is a scanner that is programmed to process information found on a business card. Instead of creating an electronic facsimile of the card, the scanner actually reads the information and relates it to specified fields such as name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and email addresses. The information obtained from the source data is then deposited into a database that is compatible with the scanner software, saving a great deal of time in data entry, and the creation of mailing lists.

Often, source data provides the information that is used in various data entry tasks. In this application, there is no attempt to use scanning software to create images or extract data from the source. Instead, individuals read the source data found on hard copy documents and type the information into some type of database. This creates computer storage of the data that is backed with the hard copy source data, and provides the benefit of being able to edit or share the electronic information with others, without the need to share the source document. The information can also be combined fully or in part with data from additional sources if necessary, allowing the source document to remain intact and preserved in its original form.

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