A data processing cycle is the process of inputting information (or data) into a computer system to convert it into useful information. The term 'data processing cycle' refers to the order in which data is processed. There are four main stages of the data processing cycle, which are as follows.
- Data collection and preparation - This is the first step of the cycle, the collection of the data and preparation of it in order to be understood by a computer. This can be done through a number of ways, including surveys, sound recordings, questionnaires, on and offline forms, practical surveys, and censuses, among many other methods. An example of this would be an Argos catalogue slip - the data is collected in such a way that when the slip is put into the computer it can read and understand the information.
- Data input - This is the inputting of the data into a system. It is a repetitive task in which each segment of data must be put into the system. Data must be entered into the computer before it can be processed. This could be the total sales transactions for a retail outlet.
- Data processing and storage - Data is stored in files which can be updated when data is changed or added to. Files are made up of records and each record is comprised from different fields. The data is processed by the computer. The computer could use Excel to work out the total of sales throughout the day, to use the example above.
- Data output - The data has now been processed and is its useful form, i.e. It is now information. To carry on with the example of the sales transactions for a retail outlet, the output could be the summary transaction, and would be displayed by the computer in an Excel worksheet.