By now, most of us have dealt with standard database programs in one situation or another. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology used for database programs in general, we can use an example to present the basic definitions for database terms you might find useful as a general background for working with Citation.
Let’s say, for instance, you wanted to store information for a political action mailing list. Information on each potential contributor would be entered in a “form” with areas or “fields” for each type of information: name, address, city, zip, primary issue of interest, and contribution amount. Fields are also categorized by the general type of information that will be entered in the field: text, numeric (currency), or dates. Our example database, then, with only three records (databases usually have more than three records!) would look like this:
With a standard database program, we can then enter and manipulate the data on the contributors in a variety of ways, knowing that the program “recognizes” what type of information has been entered, by which field the information is in.
Here is a brief description of the different ways in which data can be manipulated with a structured database program:
Information on contributors can be added, edited, or just viewed with forms that display the information in the database in a more readable format. A display form for this database, for instance, might look like this:
Forms can be created to include all the possible fields for each record in the display, or only those you want to be displayed for editing purposes. An alternative form could be designed for office help, for instance, that would not include the information on the amounts contributed.
Information can be sorted by any of the fields in the database. We would sort the contributors by contribution amount, for instance, so that those having contributed the most would be listed first. We could sort the names alphabetically, for a simple listing, or, for a mailing, by zip.
Information can be “sliced” using search criteria. We could extract a subset of names for those individuals who have not been contacted in the last six months, or to produce a list of contributors who are primarily interested in environmental issues.
Information can be presented or “output” in just about any sequence. We could include as few or as many fields as we need in a presentation of the data. For instance, we could include only the name and address fields to print labels for a mailing.
We can perform math functions on the data, as well. So that, for instance, we could easily keep a total of all the contributions made, or all the contributions made by individuals interested in campaign reform, and so on.