Chapter 10 - Database Introduction

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Using Databases to Solve Problems
2.1 – INTRODUCTION TO DATABASES
This chapter discusses the basic concepts needed to understand and use simple databases. While
the spreadsheet’s power lies in its ability to analyze data and relate values by creating formulas
that reference other cells, a database management system (DBMS) is designed to relate groups
of information and to store, retrieve, and manipulate that information in an efficient manner.
DATA, DATABASE, AND DBMS
DEFINING A DATABASE:
Data is a numeric or alphanumeric group of symbols, such as 223197001. When we give
meaning to data it becomes information. For example, 223197001 has no meaning
unless we are told it is a social security number. A piece of information becomes even more
meaningful when it is related to another piece of information: 223197001 is John Smith’s social
security number.
A database is a collection of related data stored in a well-defined structure. Databases exist in
both computerized and non-computerized formats.
Examples of databases include a
categorized file cabinet, the telephone book, a list of alphabetized songs on your iPod, or a listing
of all students and classes at a university. Databases are managed by software tools known as
Database Management Systems (DBMS). Examples of DBMS’s are Microsoft Access,
FoxPro, Oracle, and Sybase, among many others. Just as a word processor (e.g., Microsoft
Word) is used to create and edit documents, a DBMS is used to create and manage databases.
A RELATIONAL DBMS
Each DBMS is based on a database model that defines the way the information should be
organized and accessed. The three most commonly used models are the hierarchical, network,
and relational. Of these the most flexible is the relational model, which is what we will be
discussing in this chapter.
The relational model represents data and relationships using a collection of tables, as seen
in Figure 1. Each table is organized into categories of data known as fields. The table on the
left side of Figure 1 stores information regarding patients, including patient identification
number, name, address, and the doctor number of the physician treating this patient.
Patient#
AC34
BH72
BL12
EA45
FD89
Name
Marsh, Allen
Verns, Julie
Lee, Thang
Orwich, Robin
Ferb, Michael
Street
134 Central
415 Main
12 Mountain
867 Ridge
34 Crestview
City
Berridge
Berls
Denton
Fort
Stewart
Berridge
State
FL
FL
FL
FL
FL
ZipCode DoctorID
60330
21
60349
24
60412
24
60336
27
60330
21
Related field on tables
DoctorID
21
24
27
34
Last Name
Kerry
Reeves
Fernandez
Lee
First Name
Alyssa
Camden
Jaime
Jan
Figure 1
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A relational database many contain more than one table and these tables may themselves be
related to each other. The example in Figure 1 contains a second table with information about
each doctor. Notice that each doctor is identified by a unique DoctorID which can be related to
the DoctorID on the patient table in each patient record.
In addition to tables, most modern day DBMS’s include other objects which allow the user
store, retrieve, and manipulate data. In MS Access these objects include the following:
Queries – “questions” that retrieve information from a database. Queries are structures to
sort, filter, and select specific information.
Forms – structures for displaying data that allow a user to view information from and input
information in one or more objects (tables, queries, etc.).
Reports – structures for written output of data which again allow one to combine information
from one or more objects and view both details and summaries.
Macros & Program Modules – program code to perform specific actions.
A RELATIONAL DATABASE EXAMPLE – SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
The diagram in Figure 2 represents part of an Order Entry and Inventory control system. The
system includes forms, queries, and reports for data entry and retrieval. The tables store
information regarding product inventory, vendors, customers and orders.
Forms:
Order
Transactions
New Vendors &
New Customers
New
Products
Shipments
Program Modules
Tables:
Current
Inventory
Vendor
List
Orders
Order
Details
Program Modules
Reports & Queries
Daily Ship
List
Customer
Invoices
Accounts
Payable
Customer
Accounts
Output
File:
Inventory
Low Message
Figure 2
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The flow of information in the database for a typical order that might be phoned in by a
customer may be as follows:




The order entry clerk would enter the order into an Order Transaction form.
Once the order is input, a predefined program module would take this data and enter it
into the appropriate tables: e.g., Order Details table, Customer Accounts table, etc.
A Daily Pick List report will be printed for the fork lift operator in the closest warehouse
and customer invoice report printed to be included with the shipment.
The inventory table will be updated at this warehouse with this reduction in quantity; if
insufficient inventory remains, an order report would automatically be emailed to the
supplier to order more inventory.
As you can see, a company’s supply chain system using DBMS software is an extremely valuable
tool in modern day business. This course will discuss some simple database concepts as well as
how to design and query a simple database. The mechanics of setting up tables, reports, and
forms is covered in the course textbook. Setting up program modules/macros is beyond the
scope of this course.
ACCESS TABLES: RECORDS AND FIELDS
DEFINING FIELDS AND RECORDS OF A TABLE
The basic component of an Access database is the table. All other objects are based on the
structure and data within the tables. Each table is organized into a specified set of ordered
categories, or fields. Figure 3 is part of a table named Customers. The fields in the Customer
table include SSN, First Name, Last Name, Address, City, State, and Postal Code. Related
information is input into the table as records. Each record contains related values for each
table field. For example, the first record in this table contains Jane Doe’s SSN, her last name,
her first name, her address, her city, her state, and her postal code in that order. Jane Doe’s
record does not contain John Black’s SSN or Mary Park’s postal code. In addition, the third
piece of data in any record in this table will always be the Last Name as the order of values in
each record is the same as the order of the fields in the table.
Table: Customers
Customers: Table
SSN
070-13-2976
121-78-8233
273-49-2211
873-38-3923
First Name
Jane
John
Richard
Mary
Primary
Key
Last Name
Doe
Black
Taylor
Parks
Address
123 W. Lane Av
34 Grand Av
99 King Dr
54 Elm St
City
Columbus
Seattle
Chicago
Houston
State
OH
WA
IL
TX
Postal Code
43210
90012
60638
34167
Record
Field
Figure 3
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A table is frequently pictured as a collection of records in which fields are columns and records
are rows. A Data Base Management Systems is not limited to this physical view of a table.
However, for purposes of abstracting the actual processes DBMS systems perform, this table
view is helpful. In Access this view can be invoked from the Fields ribbon.
In Access 2010, the Fields ribbon allows the user to not only view and input data, but to add new
fields and to specify field properties. Figure 4 illustrates the Access window with the Accounts
table open to the Fields ribbon visible. An excellent overview of the Access interface is given in
the course textbook at the beginning of chapter 1.
Fields
Ribbon
Views
button –
switch from
datasheet to
design
Navigation
Pane – lists
database
objects
Record Selection
Buttons
Figure 4
View buttons
FIELD PROPERTIES
Fields are defined by field properties. The diagram in
Figure 5 shows the design view of an Access table where
field properties may be specified. The most common field
properties are:


Data type: The type of information stored. e.g.,
Number, Text, Currency, Yes/No (Boolean), Memo,
etc
Field size: The number of characters for text or the
precision of numbers. e.g., numbers can be integer,
long integer, single precision, double precision,
decimal, byte, etc.
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
Format: For numbers, the format specifies display properties such as currency style,
scientific notation, etc.

Input Mask: Predefined formats for displaying the field, such as social security numbers
with dashes displayed but not stored, etc.
Caption: The title that is displayed instead of the field name.
Default Value: A value that will be used if this field is left blank when a record is entered.
Validation Rule: A list of possible values or range of acceptable values for this field.
Required: If selected, when entering or modifying a record this field must be entered or the
computer display an error message.




It is advantageous to specify field properties both to make the table easier to use and more
efficient. For example, each time a new record is created, Access allocates memory (bytes) based
on the field size specified. That is, an amount of memory the size of the field is set aside, whether
it is needed or not. If a specific text field only requires three characters and the size specified as
50, each record will waste the space of 47 characters. If each character takes two bytes of
memory, 94 bytes of storage space would be wasted per record. A large database with 100,000
records would be wasting 9.4 million bytes!
WHAT FIELD TYPE SHOULD YOU USE?
A social security number consists of 9 digits. What field type would be best suited to store this
data? Using a number gives the user the ability to perform arithmetic calculations, while text
does not. Will it ever be necessary to perform arithmetic calculations on these values? Probably
not. So a number type is not needed, but can it be used?
Consider the social security number 003278343. If this value is typed into a Number field, what
value will be stored? Try it and you’ll find that the value 3278343 is displayed – the leading
zeros are discarded. Does that matter? In the case of social security numbers, this matters
greatly. The user will not want to have to “add” the zeros to print out a person’s data in a report.
If the value was stored as text, the zeros would remain part of the data stored.
Thus the best field choice for a social security number is a text field. This same logic applies to
zip codes and even phone numbers.
UNIQUELY IDENTIFYING TABLE RECORDS
Imagine a large bank with over 100,000 accounts; can a person’s last name alone be used to
identify the contents of their bank account? Is it possible that two customers have the same last
name, or even that one customer has multiple accounts? If such a customer made a deposit to
their account how do we know which account to use?
Obviously this is a very realistic situation and must be taken into consideration when designing
a database. To solve this problem, database designers include a field in tables that uniquely
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identifies each record. The Customers table presented in Figure 3 contains a unique social
security number, SSN. Since no one person has the same social security number, this can be
used to uniquely identify a person/record in the table. A field that uniquely identifies a record is
referred to as a primary key field. The primary key cannot be blank nor can it contain any
duplicate values (two records have the same value for the primary key field).
Will SSN always be a good primary key field to use? Not necessarily, it will depend on the
situation. Would an SSN uniquely identify a bank account? If a customer can have multiple
accounts (e.g., for example one for savings and one for checking) then the SSN is not a unique
identifier. To solve this problem the bank may use a unique account number, as seen in Figure
4.
A combination of fields can also be used to uniquely identify a record. Consider a table of
transactions a combination of account number and transaction time might be used to uniquely
identify a record, though normally these types of tables would be setup with a separate
transaction number. You’ve probably used these types of numbers in other applications, such as
when you look up an airline reservation or track a FedEx package.
A primary key field is not always necessary; not every table will have a single-field primary key
or any primary key at all. However, every relationship between tables must have some field or
combination of fields that uniquely identify records in one of the tables. Otherwise, for example,
it could not be established exactly which transaction will go to which account. When using a
combination of fields as a key, additional fields are known as secondary, tertiary, etc. fields. A
possible combination of fields to uniquely identify a bank customer could be the first name,
birth date, and phone number to include with last name. In this course we will use single
primary key fields to uniquely identify records.
In documentation a table is normally listed by its name followed by an ordered list of fields in
parenthesis. The primary key is underlined. The Accounts table would be written in this
notation as follows:
Accounts(acct#, SSN, lname, fname, address, City, State, Postal Code)
This description of the Accounts table is also known as a relational schema.
RELATING TABLES IN A RELATIONAL DBMS
Tables are structured into records of related data organized into ordered fields. Records are
uniquely identified by a primary key field. By uniquely defining a field such as an account
number we can find data corresponding to that account number that may reside in other tables,
such as transactions made on that account. In this section we will explore relating data between
tables.
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DEFINITION: FOREIGN KEYS
Databases can contain multiple tables where a relationship between tables is established by
correspondence between fields. The field used to relate two tables is referred to as the foreign
key. Consider the two tables in Figure 6. The first table lists an account number, the name of
the person listed on the account, and their address. The second table lists bank deposits
identified by the depositor’s name. Can each deposit be related to an account using the Name as
the foreign key between the two tables? Is Smith’s $100 deposit for the Smith on Main Street or
the Smith on Cherry Lane? Clearly using a field that has duplicate values on both tables does
not work very well.
Acct#
1
2
3
Name
Smith
Jones
Smith
Address
123 Main St.
45 Elm St
27 Cherry Lane
?
Name
Smith
Smith
Jones
$Deposit
25
100
25
Figure 6
Figure 7 contains a modified version of the second table that includes the account number
instead of name. Can each deposit be uniquely matched to a single account using the account
number as the foreign key? If the account number is the primary key of the first table, the
transactions on the second table can related to a specific account. Thus, a foreign key must
be a primary key on at least one of the tables for a relationship to be valid.
Acct#
1
2
3
Name
Smith
Jones
Smith
Address
123 Main St.
45 Elm St
27 Cherry Lane
Acct#
Acct#
1
3
2
$Deposit
25
100
25
Figure 7
This type of relationship where many values from one table (many deposits) can match to a
single value on the related table (one acct#) is referred to as a Many to One relationship (or
a One to Many relationship). An equally valid relationship would be a One to One relationship
where each record of one table corresponds to at most one record in the second table. A One to
One relationship occurs when each foreign key is the primary key on both tables.
REQUIREMENTS OF A VALID FOREIGN KEY
It is not required that the field names on each table match. Conversely, two fields that have the
same name do not imply there is a foreign key relationship.
The following rules define what is required for a relationship between two tables to be valid:
1. The foreign key must be a primary key on at least one of the tables.
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2. The field types for the foreign key field must be the same on both tables.
3. The information being related must be the same.
The first requirement has already been discussed. What about the second requirement, what
does it mean the field types must be the same? Consider the foreign key in the previous
example. What field type is the acct# field? The designer had a choice of using Number or Text.
Either would have worked, though one may have been more efficient that the other. What
matters is consistency between the two tables. If the acct# field is an Integer number on the first
table and Text on the second table, Access will not be able to match the foreign key records.
Why should it make a difference which data type is specified? After all, you can’t see the type of
the field when looking at the information in the datasheet view. However, remember the data is
being stored in memory of a computer as a series of high/low level electrical charges that we
express as zeros and ones. The text representation for the digit 1 may be a series of 32 zeros and
ones while the Integer representation for the number 1 may be a series of 16 zeros and ones.
These two values are NOT EQUAL and thus computer will not recognize the two values as
matching.
What about the third requirement for a valid foreign key, what does “information being related
must be the same” mean? Consider two tables, where each has account numbers. Table 1
contains the account numbers at First City Bank and Table 2 contains the bank numbers at
Union Trust bank. While the fields may have the same name and type, there is no relationship
between account 1234 at First City Bank and account 1234 at Union Trust bank. Relating the
records between these two tables based on account number would be meaningless.
MANY TO ONE TO MANY RELATIONSHIPS
In the following example another table has been added to the database to keep track of
withdrawals. The schema of the table is Withdrawals(Acct#, Amount). Can the Withdrawals
table be related to the Deposits table from the previous example?
Deposits
Acct#
256887
256887
654887
Amount
$50.
$75
$32
?
Withdrawals
Acct#
256777
654887
256887
Amount
$25
$100
$25
Figure 8
The fields Acct# (table Deposits) and Acct# (table Withdrawals) both represent a customer’s
account and we can assume they both are specified as the same data type. Yet in neither case
are these fields primary. There may be many instances of an account number on the deposits
table (e.g., 256887) and many instances of that same account number of the withdrawals table.
However, a deposit does not correspond to a withdrawal (and vice versa). Thus, the account
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number would not be a valid foreign key. This type of relationship is referred to as a Many to
Many relationship.
Can we relate the tables using the Amount fields? While the Amounts fields have the same
name, they represent different information. On the deposits table Amount is the money into an
account. On the withdrawal table Amount is the money out of an account; it does not make
sense to relate these fields. In addition, it possible that two transactions contain the same value
in the amount field, so neither of these fields is primary.
But certainly it makes sense that somehow the deposits into an account are related to the
withdrawals from that account. To solve this dilemma databases are designed with intermediate
tables, in this case the Accounts table. In the Accounts table the account number is the primary
key and can be related to both the Deposits table and the Withdrawals table, as seen in Figure 9.
This changes the relationships so that there are now two Many to One relationships. The
relationship between three such is referred to as a Many to One to Many relationship.
Another possible database design would be to combine the Deposits and Withdrawal tables into
one Transactions table, since the fields are essentially the same, account number and a
monetary value. In the latter type of design, deposits would need to be entered as positive
values and withdrawals as negative values.
Figure 9
DEFINING RELATIONSHIPS IN AN ACCESS DATABASE
Just as our DBMS software will allow us to define a table and enter records, it also allows us to
define relationships between tables. The Relationships tool can be launched from the
Relationship button on the Database Tools ribbon in the Show/Hide group, as shown in Figure
10. Figure 11 shows the relationships view that displays the relationship between the Accounts
and a Transactions tables.
Figure 10
Figure 11
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When the relationships view is first launched in a new
database it will be blank. Each table must be individually
added from the Show Table box, as seen in Figure 12. To
open the Show Table dialog box, right-click anywhere in
the relationships window. Once the box is open, click on
the Tables Tab (or Query tab for a query) and select the
name of the table to be added and then click then Add
button (or double click on the table name). Repeat the
process to add additional tables. Figure 13 illustrates the
Relationship window with the Accounts and
Transactions tables added but not yet related. To relate
tables follow these three steps:
Figure 12



Move the mouse to the foreign key field listed on
one of the tables.
While holding down the left mouse button, drag
the cursor to the corresponding field on the
second table. The cursor will change into a circle
with a line through it during this process.
When you reach the corresponding field, release
the mouse button.
A line should appear that connects the two fields,
similar to the picture originally shown in Figure 11.
Once all relationships have been defined, close the
Figure 13
window and select the Yes button to save. Repeat this
process to make any additions/changes to the relationships window. Relationships can be
deleted by clicking on the relationship line and then pressing the Delete key.
USING TABLE TO MANIPULATE DATA
One of the main reasons for using DBMS software is the ability to quickly and easily locate
specific data or sets of data. Within an Access table it is possible to quickly and easily locate data
using the Filter and Sort tools. To understand how a database finds records, we will also briefly
explore the concept of search routines and Indexing.
APPLYING DATA FILTERS
The filter tool can be used in the datasheet view to display selected records of a table. A filter
allows us to specify criteria in a field or fields and show only those records that meet the criteria.
Using the filter tool we can list only those people who live in Columbus, those people whose last
name is Jones, or even only people whose last name is Jones and live in Columbus. The
mechanics of setting up filters from the datasheet view of a table can be found in any of the stepby-step instructions in the course text. The Filter tools can be found on the Sort and Filter
group of the Home tab (Figure 14). They include:
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



The Filter button allows the user to sort or
choose one listed item as a filter criterion. This list
will vary depending on which field of the database
is currently selected. To select a field, simply place
the cursor on any record in the field to be filtered
Figure 14
The Selection button applies the filter using the
current selection as the criteria. If the highlighted
“cell” is on record 3 in the account field and that value is 123, then 123 will be the
selection criteria. After clicking on the Selection button, options to select records based
on this filter will appear including: equals, does not equal, greater than, etc.
The Advanced button gives the user several options for filtering data, including Filter
by Form which enables criteria to be defined across multiple fields.
To remove the filter, click the Toggle Filter button.
This ability to find records that meet a specific set of criteria will be greatly extended in the next
chapter using a database query.
SORTING TABLES
From the Datasheet Table View in Access, tables can also be sorted. Using the sort tool, select
a field and a sort type (ascending or descending). The records will be temporarily rearranged
based on this order. Sorts can be performed by clicking on the field to be sorted and
then selecting either the ascending or descending sort buttons in the Sort & Filter group
of the Home tab. The buttons for sort-ascending and sort-descending look like
this:
If the table is not saved using the Save button, the table will revert back to the original record
order when reopened. Sorting is an efficient tool for helping to retrieve specific records. More
advanced sorts using multiple sort keys can be done using a query.
INDEXING TABLES AND SEARCH SCHEMES
INDEXING TABLES
There are also methods by which DBMS systems can index your files to create a cross reference
to the table records based on a specific sorting method. Since data is usually stored on magnetic
disks in a linear fashion, similar to music on a tape, file indexing combined with search schemes
make it more efficient for the computer to retrieve records, especially in databases with millions
of records. Several indices can be setup for the same table, allowing for efficient searching for a
variety of fields. For example, the bank can search by account number or by last name,
depending on the information the customer has provided. These searches may always be done
whether or not a table is indexed; searches over a large number of records are more efficient
when using indices.
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A LINEAR SEARCH ROUTINE
As previously mentioned, one of the reasons to sort tables is to allow for more efficient data
retrieval. For example, imagine a dictionary that had words listed randomly. In order to find a
specific word one needs to systematically go through each word, one by one, until the desired
word is found. This is known as a linear search. On average, a linear search will have to look at
the number of items in a table divided by two in order to find a specific piece data: it might be
the first word in this randomly organized dictionary, but then again it might be the last.
Why is efficient data handling so important? First let us understand how data is stored
and retrieved by a DBMS like MS Access. Recall that when working with an Excel spreadsheet,
the entire file is loaded from the disk drive onto the computer’s RAM (random access memory).
So working with spreadsheet data is usually extremely fast, but the size of files are limited by the
RAM of the computer. In fact, one notices a significant slow down of operation speed as the
workbook file increases in size.
In contrast, most relational databases do not load all of the tables, queries, reports, etc. directly
into RAM. They load only the table of contents of the objects. To process information from one
or more objects, just those objects are loaded into RAM. Thus, a DBMS can handle much larger
quantities of data. In fact, many large databases systems have millions of records.
When running a DBMS, the computer is not just processing information but continually
retrieving and writing data to and from secondary memory (usually a magnetic hard drive).
While a computer’s RAM can process information at very fast speeds, searching for specific
information on a disk drive and retrieving and/or writing to the drive is a much more time
consuming process. If a file is stored in random order, as with the un-alphabetized dictionary, it
will require the computer to look at the disk many more times to find the information that we
want than if the file was sorted. Consequently, computer scientists are interested in how to
search for information more efficiently.
THE BINARY SEARCH
There are many different search schemes that can be used with indexed files to speed up
retrieval of information. Most of us are all familiar with the alphabetical sort routine that
divides textual information into 26 groups based on the first letter of each item, and then further
subdivides each group by the second letter, etc. The search routine to retrieve information from
an alphabetical list, such as a dictionary, is to identify the first letter of the text and match it to
the correct group and then continue doing this with the second letter and so on until a match
has been identified.
A similarly efficient scheme which can be used with numerical data is known as a binary
search routine. A binary search routine is much more efficient than a linear search in finding
information. In Figure 15 records have been sorted by the indexed field, ID#, in ascending
order. To find the record for id#606147775 using a binary search routine the computer would
do the following:
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1. First go to the middle record (not the average value!) of
the list and check to see if the value (id#) equals the value
of the middle record. If this is true, the record has been
found. If not, continue to step 2.
2. If the value is greater than the value of this middle
record, ignore all records from the beginning of the list
until this midpoint. The remaining list will contain only
records from the midpoint until the end of the list. Set a
new midpoint for this new list and begin again at step 1.
3. If the value is less than the middle record, ignore all
records from the midpoint to the end of the list. The
new list will contain only records from the beginning of
the list until the midpoint. Set a new midpoint for this
new list and begin again at step 1.
ID#
123456789
139555002
157745969
178301771
201529842
227776183
257436001
290951508
328824082
371616449
419975418
474621100
536370683
606147775
684995818
774094122
874775203
988544806
lname
Sommer
Suyama
Lebihan
Berglund
Trujillo
Moos
Citeaux
Callahan
Moreno
Fuller
Dodsworth
Leverling
Hardy
Anders
Peacock
King
Davolio
Buchanan
fname
Martín
Michael
Laurence
Christina
Ana
Hanna
Frédérique
Laura
Antonio
Andrew
Anne
Janet
Thomas
Maria
Margaret
Robert
Nancy
Steven
Figure 15
4. This process will continue until a match is found or all
records have been searched (in which case the value does not appear in the list).
Applying this algorithm to this specific example:



Since 606147775 is greater than 328824082, consider only those records starting with
328824082 until the end of the table.
The midpoint of this new list is 536370683. Is 606147775 greater than 536370683? Yes. So
now consider only those records from 536370683 until the end of the table.
The midpoint of this new list from 536370683 to 988544806 is 684995818. Is 606147775
greater than 684995818? No. So our new list will be from 536370683 to 684995818.
The midpoint of this list is 606147775. Since this midpoint now matches our search value the
desired record has been found.
This search only looked at three different records in the table. A linear search on average would
have looked at 19/2 or 10.5 records. This is a significant improvement.
To illustrate the significant difference between linear and binary search routines, consider a
situation where instead of 19 records, the list had a million records. If the list isn’t sorted by the
value we’re searching for, in the worst case we would have to look at all one million records. If
the list is sorted and we use a binary search, we would only have to look at thirty one. If the
list had 10 million records and we could use a binary search, the worst case is still only looking
at thirty five records.
A binary search is only one of many different methods computer scientist use to improve the
efficiency of retrieving data. There are computer science courses devoted solely to this topic.
This discussion is only meant to provide you an appreciation of the processes involved and an
insight into the importance and complexity of the topic.
Introduction to Databases 2.1
CSE1111
Page 13
Using Databases to Solve Problems
DESIGNING YOUR OWN DATABASE
The design of a complex database management system can take weeks, months or even years to
complete, involving thousands of man-hours of effort by a team of computer scientists and
management. You may someday be part of one of these teams, or you may just be trying to
create a small database to keep track of a guest list for a large party. Regardless of the size and
complexity of your database, there are several things one must consider before creating a
database. As with a spreadsheet, the critical step in designing an effective database is to plan it.
Think about the following:



What data objects are present? Customers and account transactions are each table objects in
our sample database.
How is the data related? In our sample database, we have related these objects by a foreign
key field (SSN).
What information will be generated from the data? Will we need to design queries and/or
reports to list of all accounts for owners who live in Columbus, or summarize transactions by
account?
When setting up even the simplest of tables there are several factors to consider:

Tables should be divided into inseparable fields. For example, if an address field
contains the entire address (street, city, state and zip code) it may not be possible to sort our
list by state, or to display only those records within a specific zip code. In this case we may
want to define each of the address elements as separate fields.

Appropriate Field types should be selected with respect to the type of data being stored.

Appropriate field sizes should be used to minimize data storage.

Field properties should be defined to aid in data input (validity, defaults, etc).

Each fact should change in only one place. If a fact appears in more than one record
of a table, it should probably be defined in another table.

Calculations shouldn’t be part of the table. In subsequent chapter we will discuss
how to perform calculations using the Access Query tool.

Appropriate primary keys should be selected that enable relationship structures between
tables of information.
Obviously this list can be greatly expanded. In fact there are both undergraduate and graduate
courses devoted to learning how to design, build and maintain databases. But the list should
give you some idea as to the types of things that need to be considered.
Introduction to Databases 2.1
CSE1111
Page 14
Using Databases to Solve Problems
EXERCISE 2.1-1 - DATABASE CONCEPTS REVIEW
1. What is the difference between a Database and a Database Management System?
2. What is the difference between Data and Information?
Find the letter of the item which best matches the description given:
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
Binary Search
Datasheet View
Design View
Field
Field Property
F.
G.
H.
I.
J.
Filter by Form
Filter by Selection
Form
Index
Query
K.
L.
M.
N.
Record
Report
Sort
Table
3. ___A tool that can be used in Datasheet View to display only records with a matching field
to the record/field currently selected.
4. ___Each table is organized into categories known as this.
5. ___ On the table below one row is referred to as this.
6. ___ Location in Access where you define the table structure.
7. ___ View where the records of a table appear as seen below.
8. ___Structures for written output of data.
9. ___Use to organize a specific field alphabetically in the Datasheet View.
10. ___A method of finding information in a sorted list comparing a midpoint value to the value
being sought.
11. Which field might be a good primary key (if any) in each of the following tables?
Names:
Name
Bob
Dave
Mindy
Classes:
ID
123
893
30
Address
8 Main St
22 High St.
8 Main St.
ID Number#
893
123
893
Class
04675
04675
34412
12. Is there a foreign key between these two tables? List the three necessary conditions for a key
to be a valid foreign key.
13. What field type is most appropriate for the Class field and why?
14. Suggest a database structure to keep track of student grades and the people who assign
grades, assuming there multiple exams, labs, etc. and multiple lab consultants, TAs, etc.
Introduction to Databases 2.1
CSE1111
Page 15
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