A database is like an electronic filing cabinet. It is used to store large amounts of information in an organized way. A database is made up of records. Each record contains different pieces of information called fields. A field is one item contained in the record. You must define each of the fields that comprise the record. This is why it's important to have a clear idea about what information you'd like to store in the database.


Here is one possible model to follow if you design your own database:

  1. Identify the overall purpose of the database.
  2. Identify all data fields and types that are to be kept in the database.
  3. Identify appropriate hardware/software to meet the analysis requirements of the database.
  4. Design the database to meet the standards identified in steps 1 and 2.
  5. Implement the database on a small scale (30 records or less) and check its performance.
  6. Revise as needed. If necessary, do steps 4 and 5 several times.
  7. Implement the entire database.


As the data is entered it is important to be as accurate and consistent as possible so that the data can be organized and retrieved. For example:

If you are not consistent when entering data, your searches and sorts will not work properly!

Read more tips from the Northwest Database Service's Tip Sheet.


Searching and Sorting

Sorting a database means arranging records in a specific way to make the reported data more usable. Data can be sorted in ascending alphanumeric order or descending alphanumeric order.

The data in a database is not useful unless it can be accessed and extracted to answer questions. The process of extracting specific data from a database is called a query. A query scans the database for data matching specific criteria. A query can have one criterion or may be made up of multiple criteria.

You can output resulting matches from a query in a variety of formats, including labels, lists, and reports.


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