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Home » A Primer on Databases and Catalogs » How is a database organized?

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How is a database organized?

Understanding records and fields

Understanding how databases are organized can help you retrieve information more efficiently. Information about each item in a database is called a record.

Elements of an individual record are called fields. Fields can be used as points of access when searching a database. A record in a periodical database would include information about a periodical article (author, source, date, title, etc.).

You might try visualizing a record in an electronic database as being part of a table. Each column in the table represents the fields and each row represents the individual record. The table below represents what an electronic database of students in a class might look like:

Smith John Freshman Macon August Male
Turner Evelyn Freshman Brunswick April Female
Arndale Carrie Sophomore Atlanta September Female
Zwemke Jason Freshman Cartersville May Male
Lane Penny Sophomore Decatur September Female
Guoqing Yu Freshman Augusta April Male
Jones John Junior Waycross December Male
Vasser Pricilla Freshman Blue Ridge February Female
Wright Mandy Freshman Rome September Female

For a demonstration of searches select (the following links will open in a pop-up window) Database Interactive Example or printable text version of the search examples.

If you wanted a list of all students who were freshmen you could target the Class field, type in "freshman" as your search, and you would get a list that would include John Smith, Evelyn Turner, Jason Zwemke, Yu Guoqing, Pricilla Vasser, and Mandy Wright.

To determine which students have April birthdays you could target the Birth Month field and type in April as your search and your list would include Evelyn Turner and Yu Guoqing.

You can also target two different fields at one time. If you wanted a list of Sophomores born in September you would target both the Class field and the Birth Month field. The list of the students in this category would include Penny Lane and Carrie Arndale, but not Mandy Wright, even though she was born in September.

The organization of a database is very basic, regardless of who produces it.

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