Unit 7 - Databases - Design and Use

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    What is a database?

    • A database is an organized collection of data.
    • It does not matter whether you use paper or a computer to collect and store data.  As long as you are collecting and organising data you have got a database.

    What does a database do?

    • Databases are used to store and handle data such as customer details for a business, medical records at a surgery and stock items in a warehouse.
    • Database content is easy to manage.
    • Information can be accessed and updated quickly and efficiently.
    • A database can store and handle lots of data.
    • A user can sort and search a database to find any requested data.

    Database structures

    Databases are organised by fields, records and files.
    • Field - this is a single piece of data such as name, date of birth or telephone number.
    • Record - this is one complete set of fields, for example one pupil's school record.
    • File - this is a collection of records, for example a school database

    What can databases store?

    Databases are used more than any other computer program.  The example below shows fields, records and files used by a school database.

    File, Record and File example

    Primary key

    A primary key is data that is unique to each record in a database or file. This prevents any records from having the same value. The Student ID is the primary key field in the database below.

    Surname First Name Student ID Town Start Date
    Stickleford Emma 961534 Dudley 01/09/2007
    Johnson Mark 961535 Cosely 01/09/2006
    Patel Ian 961536 Birmingham 01/09/2004
    Barnston Michael 961537 Birmingham 01/09/2007


    Setting up a database

    It's most likely that you will be using Microsoft Access to build a database. Follow the steps in the video to get started with setting up a database.



    Importing external data into the database

    As part of the project you will be expected to create a database and then import a specified data set. Watch this step by step guide on how to do it.

    You will need to save the data file you are going to import into your User Area. You will need to ask your teacher to tell you where the file you need to import is located.

    Mail merge

    Mail merge is a word processing feature that allows users to personalise letters with names and addresses from a database.


    The five main steps in setting up a mail-merged letter are:

    1. Create the database with fields for the names and addresses of the people to send the letter to.
    2. Write the letter using a word processing package and link the letter to the database.
    3. Use a query to find a subset of relevant people and send a targeted letter to them.
    4. Using the mail merge wizard, enter codes in the letter where the name and address of the customers should appear.
    5. Merge-print, taking the data from the database and inserting it in the letters, producing one letter for each person in the subset of relevant people from the database.

    Data entry forms

    Before information can be processed, it is necessary to capture information first. This process is called data collection. Information is turned into data.

    Information can be collected using questionnaires or data capture forms. The information on the data capture form is then entered into the computer manually by someone typing in the results or automatically using an input device.

    Watch the step-by-step guide below on how to use a data entry form.


    Validation checks ensure that data entered into the computer is sensible. Data is checked against a set of rules. The computer's software can validate data while it is being entered into the computer. The main purpose of data validation is to spot an error. This can be done quickly and easily as the process is automated.

    Creating a validation rule

    Follow these steps to set up a validation rule in a database. The example used is a database for 'Healthy Living' clubs.

    The database is designed to hold the following information: organisation, whether the club is local, town, postcode, telephone number, web address and the support offered.

    1. Select Design. This will open the table so you can edit the appropriate details.


    2. Use the keyboard arrow keys to select the field to which you want to add avalidation rule, eg 'Support offered'.

    3. Select the General menu page.

    4. Support offered can be NA - nutritional advice, EP - exercise plan, MA - motivational advice or HP - health plan. The validation rule is set so only these options can be entered.

    Validation 2

    5. Close the table and click Yes when asked if you want to save changes.

    Adding and deleting records

    A database is a useful tool because it allows the user to enter a new record, edit a record if data changes and delete a record once it is no longer needed.

    Adding a new record

    1. Open the database you want to add a record to. Select the Table tab and double click on the file name.

    Adding a new record - step 1

    2. The database will open. You can now enter a new record into the row at the bottom.

    Adding a new record - step 2

    Deleting records

    Having the option to delete a record once it is no longer required will free up memory space on the computer's hard drive and ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act.

    To delete a record:

    1. Select the record you want to delete.
    2. Click Edit on the toolbar, and then Delete Record.

    Delete a record

    Searching a database

    Below is a step-by-step guide on how to search a databse using the simple query wizard.

    Database reports

    A database report presents information from a database. Information is displayed simply and efficiently. Reports can be printed from the database to view information quickly and easily.

    This video shows you how to create a database report.

    Databasics Test







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