The ICT Lounge
Section 7.2:
Data Handling Applications
Computers (and computer applications) are often used to perform data handling tasks.

These tasks include:
Key Concepts of this section:
Understand what 'data handling' is .
Know why computers are more effective at handling data than paper-based methods.
Be able to discuss the advantages of using a computer to handle data in a range of different scenarios.
Address Lists
Tuck Shop Records
Record Keeping
School Reports
Library Data
Data Handling
Key Words:
Input, Processing, Output, Searching, Backup, Editing, Security, Sorting
What is Data Handling?

Data Handling is basically where data is input and stored on a computer. The data is then processed in some way to turn it into useful information. This information can then be output and used.
Computer systems of all kinds can be used
to handle data
Why use a computer to handle data?
Computers are much better at handling data than paper-based methods (like files of paper) for many reasons including:
  • Searching - Computers can find stored data very quickly
  • Editing - Computer data can be edited (changed) very easily
  • Backed up - Copies of data can be made very easily
  • Security - Passwords can be applied to computers
  • Sorting - Data can be organised in different orders quickly
  • Transported - Computer data can be moved via flash memory
  • Output - Data can be printed out easily
Paper-Based records can take up a lot
of physical space
Computers can also hold vast amounts of data in very little physical space. For example - A database on a standard home PC can stored hundreds of filing cabinets worth of data!!

Examples of Data that could be Stored on a Computer
Key Words:
Surveys, Address Lists, Shop Records, Club Records, School Reports, Library Records
The following examples show you how data can be stored and handled on a computer by using various every-day scenarios:
Survey Results

Surveys are often used by businesses / organisations to find out what people want or do.
Gathering data using a survey
Optical Mark Readers can quickly scan the
of a survey into a computer
Surveys are often carried out on paper and are filled in by shading circles or ticking boxes.

The paper-survey's data can then be scanned into a computer by using an Optical Mark Reader (OMR). This eliminates typing the data in by hand!!

When the data is inside the computer it can be used in a number of ways:
  • Sorted - e.g. ordered by date
  • Searched - specific data can be found quickly
  • Analysed - via graphs or charts
  • Results - the findings of the survey can be published as a report
The benefits of using a computer to handle survey data are as follows:
  • Faster - results of the survey
  • Less Errors - input errors are minimal
  • Fast Results Analysis - data analysed quicker
  • Time/Money Savings - fewer people are needed to carry out the survey
Surveys are also carried out via web sites. Online surveys do not need to be entered into a computer via an OMR as the data is sent automatically to a database.

Click here for an example of an online survey.

Address Lists

Address lists are used to store details about friends, family or business contacts.

The details that we might store include:
  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone Numbers (home, work and mobile)
  • Email Address
  • etc.....
Paper address lists are hard to update
and easy to lose
Electronic address lists can easily group contacts,
search contacts and edit contacts


Before we had computers, this type of information was often stored in an address book like the one in the image to the right. This sometimes caused problems like:
  • Easy to lose - paper address books are quite small and easy to misplace
  • Hard to update - you had to cross old entries out and replace
  • Hard to search - if you have a lot of contacts
Modern address lists are stored on computers or mobile phones and this offers a number of advantages including:

Advantages of Electronic Address Lists
Groups -
Family data can be placed in one group, friends in another group. This makes finding contacts quicker.
Editing -
If a contact changes (e.g. a new phone number) you can easily edit the contact. On a paper address book you have to cross out the old entry.
Easy Searching -
Computerised address books always have search facilities which are much quicker than looking through pages of a paper book.
Backups -
Computerised address books can be easily copied in case anything happens to the original.
Tuck Shop Records


Tuck shops sell things like sweets, drinks, chocolate and crisps to children.

Like any type of shop, tuck shops need to keep a track of records such as:
  • Income - daily takings
  • Expenditure - costs to the business (buying products to sell, shop rent etc)
  • Stock Levels - how much of each product are left
  • etc.....
Paper-based accounts records have drawbacks
Spreadsheets can perform calculations and are
easy to update
Before computers, these records were kept on paper in something called an 'Account's Ledger'. As with any paper-based data handling method, accounts ledgers have certain drawbacks:
  • Easy to lose - physical books can be misplaced
  • Hard to update - old records would be crossed out and replaced (messy)
  • Difficult to backup - any copies had to be made by photocopier
  • Can be damaged - fire, water etc
  • Entry errors - easy to miscalculate or write in the wrong information
These days, spreadsheets are used to store shop account records. Spreadsheets offer a number of advantages when used to keep shop records:
Advantages of keeping shop records on a spreadsheet
Calculations / Formulae -
Calculations can be made automatically to give us accurate totals and averages etc. They can also predict how much of a profit or loss the shop will make.
Charts / Graphs
Charts can be quickly made to show us changes in things like income, expenditure and profit/loss.
Editing -
Figures can be changed easily by simply replacing the old data. On a paper accounts ledger you have to cross out the old entry.
Backups -
Spreadsheets can easily be copied in case anything happens to the original.
Clubs and Society Records

Clubs and societies often have many members. Records need to be kept about these members for details such as:
  • Membership number
  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Expiry date of membership
  • Membership fee's paid (Y/N)
A club membership card
Computerised databases are easy to search, update, backup and can be used to perform mail merges
This video (link here) shows you how mail merge can be used to quickly create letters to be sent to all of the members stored in your database.

Computer databases (e.g. Microsoft Access) are often used to store these details and this offers a number of advantages compared with storing the data on paper:

Advantages of storing membership details on a Database
Easy Searching -
Member data can be searched very quickly. This is very useful if the club has hundreds or thousands of members.
Editing -
Member data can be changed easily. Old records (like address) are just deleted and replaced with the new records.
Backups -
Databases can be copied very easily.
Security -
Databases can be password protected. This helps stop unauthorised viewing of member's personal details (like address and phone numbers etc).
Moving the Database -
If you need to move the database to a different location you just copy it to a portable storage device (e.g. flash memory) and take it with you.
Mail Merge -
Databases can be linked with Word Documents to make it easy to create letters to be sent to all of the club's members.

School Reports

Schools keep records about how well students are performing in their classes. These records are shared with both the student and their parents each term.

The details that would be recorded include:
  • Student ID
  • Student name
  • Tutor group
  • Subject (like ICT, English etc)
  • Current grade
  • Effort level
  • Behavior level
  • Effort level
  • Homework level
  • Teacher comments
Hand written reports were a hugely frustrating
and time consuming task for teachers
Databases allow us to produce professional looking student reports at a fraction of the effort of
writing them by hand


Before we had computers, student's reports had to be written by hand. This created problems such as:
  • Time - hugely time consuming
  • Spelling - with no spell check spelling errors were common
  • Errors - any mistakes meant re-writing the report
Modern school reports are entered and stored in a database (like Microsoft Access). This gives many advantages when compared to writing them by hand:

Advantages of using a Database to create school reports
Pre-Written Comments -
Pre-Written comments can be stored in the database and then selected from a list. The teacher can just select the comment that best matches the student instead of writing one from scratch. This is much quicker and easier.
Editing -
If a mistake is made you can simply delete it and re-type.
Spell Check -
Database software include spell checkers which help make sure the reports are grammatically correct.
Security -
Databases can be password protected. This means that personal student data is safe from unauthorised viewing.
Reports -
Data stored in the database can be displayed on reports. Reports can be re-designed to look very professional and include school logo's etc.
School Library Records

Libraries need to keep track of the following .
  • Which books are currently on loan
  • ID number of the borrower
  • Name of the borrower
  • Address of the borrower
  • Date the book was borrowed
  • Date the book is due to be returned
Old style library cards were easy to mix up
and could be difficult to find
Library databases can quickly and easily locate book records and find out who has borrowed them
Before computers, book details were recorded on cards which were stored in organised filing drawers. This paper-based system posed problems including:
  • Errors - manually checking the cards meant that sometimes overdue books were missed
  • Mix-ups - cards could get mixed up or placed in the wrong drawer
  • Time - it took lots of time to find the details of each book
  • Space - large libraries might have thousands of paper-based book records. These took up a lot of room to store.
These days, libraries use databases to keep track of their books. Storing book and borrower records on a database give certain advantages including:
Advantages of storing library records in a database
Speed -
Very quick to search for the details of a book and match to who has borrowed it.
Accuracy -
Databases can be set up to warn you when books become overdue. This means that the Librarian can contact the borrower to request the book's return.
Space -
One computer database can store the details of many thousands of books. This means that all of the old filing drawers can be removed leaving physical room for more books.
Cheaper -
One database can handle the same amount of work as many librarians. This saves on employment costs.