What's a Database?
A database here is defined as:
a set of data or information organized into one or more categories
When we hear the term "database" we typically think of electronic databases, but this definition includes non-electronic forms such as a dictionary, phone book, card catalog or even a grocery list. In fact, databases have existed since the invention of writing. Some of the most valued documents in historical or archaeological research are non electronic databases including temple inventories, king lists, chronological event listings and property records such as the Norman Domesday Book.
Records and Fields
Databases are generally organized into individual entries or records of data, each of which include certain categories of data or fields. For instance a dictionary includes records for individual words, each of which includes information or fields for spelling, pronunciation. etymology and different word meanings.
Dictionary as Database
Records: Individual Words
Similarly an ancient king list (or a list of presidents in the U.S.) would include the name of the ruler, the dates of the reign and possibly a list of accomplishments.
King List as Database
Records: Individual rulers
In order to make searching for individual records easier in a non-electronic database, records in these documents are usually organized into some type of order or sort which makes it easier to find an individual record. Some examples of sorts include:
Some large databases can be sorted primarily on one method, and the sub lists can then be resorted in these groups in another fashion. An example of this could be a list of U.S. Senators addresses which are first sorted by state, then again alphabetically by last name. See the example below.
Senator List : By State then Last Name
Milulski, Barbara (D)
Corzine, Jon (D)
Clinton, Hilary (D)
DeWine, Mike (R)
Multiple Sorts (Codex)
Some databases may work best with multiple primary sorts. For instance, a traditional library card catalog typically had three parallel sets of cards. One sorted alphabetically by book title, one sorted alphabetically by author last name and one sorted by topic.
A similar strategy is to maintain one complete set of data in one sort, but have another index list which points users to the full entry. For instance, an address book is usually organized alphabetically by last name, but some include another section to list birthday's with a name in chronological order throughout the year. If someone needs an address or phone number, then he or she would look it the record by last name. This secondary list can also be called a "codex."
Roll your mouse over the blue box after each question to see the answer.
For each item, determine if it is a non-electronic database.
1. List of current U.S. Congressional Representatives
2. A haiku poem
5. Collection of haiku poems
6. Sheet music for "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer"
For each non-electronic database, consider what would be the "fields" and "records".
1. Periodic Table of elements
2. Index of book
3. Museum exhibition collection
4. Appointment Calendar
Next: Advantages of Electronic Databases