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PREPARING and USING A DATABASE

OBJECTIVES

1. To become familiar with the use of a computer database.
2. To prepare a database on a scientific topic.
3. To develop skill in the use of a computer database to find information.

PREPARING A DATABASE

BACKGROUND

A computer database is a collection of information on a given topic that is stored on a computer disk. It is organized much like a library's card catalog system. Any book in the library can be found by looking under the book's title, its author, or various subject topics with which the book deals. In fact, many libraries are, or have already, converted to a computerized catalog -- a database.

In science, a database might be designed to store information on animals so that you could look up any one of hundreds of animals and find out about that animal. On the other hand, you may want to find out about a more specific animal such as an insect, so you would look in a database of insects rather than one for animals in general. In fact, you might want to be very specific and look up only insects that carry diseases. The database could be searched to find only those insects.

There are a number of different database programs for use on different kinds of computers. They each have slightly different features, but they all operate in basically the same way. Learning to use any one of them is fairly simple, as you will see. Although they may use different keys to do the same kinds of things, they are usually "menu-driven" and have "help screens" that will tell you how to operate them. There is nothing "magic" about using a computer. It does nothing you couldn't do; it just does it faster.

In this exercise, you will be using a Macintosh computer program called ClarisWorks to prepare a database. The ClarisWorks program is actually a group of several integrated programs, a wordprocesser, database, spreadsheet, communications, and drawing. They are said to be integrated since information from one part may be transferred directly to one of the other parts without opening another program or application. They are also somewhat simpler to use than stand-alone products. While these may be advantages for some people, the disadvantage is that none of the applications within the integrated program have some of the advanced features for using them that some people like to use.

VOCABULARY

Database -- A collection of information; the part of the ClarisWorks program used to work with information you might otherwise keep in lists, notebooks, or on file cards.

Desktop -- Part of the computer's memory; specifically that area available for you to build ClarisWorks files.

File-- The electronic form of a document stored on a disk.

Record -- In a database, all of the information stored about a person or item; e.g., a person's name, address, telephone number, birth date, etc.

Field -- A particular category within a record of a database; e.g., a person's address would be one of the fields in that person's record.

PROCEDURE

1. Use the form provided to collect information on a number of scientists. When your data has been collected, you are ready to enter it into the computer as directed below.

2. "Boot the system."
a. Turn on the computer as instructed by your teacher. Double-click on the ClarisWorks icon to select and open the program.

b. When the Main Menu appears, you are given a number a choices for opening an application. Since the file into which you are going to be entering data has already been created, you do not have to select an application. Click on Cancel. This will change the menu bar at the top of your screen and enable you to find and Open the file, Scientists. Your teacher may give you more specific instructions about finding the location of this file. (The file can be opened directly from the Finder by double-clicking on the file's icon. This will open ClarisWorks and then the database itself without the extra steps described.)

c. When you find the file, double-click on it to open it. In a few moments, the file will appear on your desktop, ready for you to enter data.

3. Be sure that the Layout view on your screen is "Browse." Select Layout from the Menu Bar at the top of your screen. "Browse" should already be selected; if not click it . When the full screen reappears, enter your data in each of the appropriate fields. When you have completed the information for a given field, simply Tab to the next field to enter the information for that field.

Note that correct spelling is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, no one will be able to search the database and expect to find what has been entered. It is also important that all information be entered in the same format. For example, If some people enter a scientist's nationality as "American" while others enter "USA" or "U.S.A." searching the database become difficult at best. Double check each entry with your partner for accuracy and format that has been specified by your teacher.

4. When you have completed entering all of your records, press -S to SAVE the data you have just entered. To enter a new record, select New Record from the Edit Menu at the top of your screen (or press -R). Enter the information for your second scientist.

5. When everyone has completed entering their data into the database, your teacher will combine all of the records into a single file, after which it is ready for use. There will probably be over 100 records in the database. The next section is on how a database can be used to search for specific items.

USING A DATABASE

BACKGROUND

ClarisWorks is a fairly "user friendly" program, and the basic functions are easily learned as you have already seen. There are some functions that have not been considered in the initial construction and formatting of our database, but these can be added as necessary by simply reading the user's manual.

The same can be said for actually using a database. We will use only the basic functions in searching for specific items. For example, you might want to know all of the scientists who come from a particular country or state. The database will call these up for you. Or, you might want to know all of the people in the database who were born prior to 1800. The system will also compile this list. Moreover, it will sort the chosen items alphabetically or numerically for you.

In this part of the unit, you will learn to perform most of the important functions that this system has to offer. You will do a number of searches with a partner. The test on this unit will be a one-on-one exercise with the teacher.


PROCEDURE

1. "Boot the system" as before, opening the SCIENTISTS file.

2. The screen display should now show you the "Browse" layout, and provide a scroll bar on the right side of the screen so that you can "scroll" down through all of the entries in the database. Note that an icon in the upper left of you screen indicates the record that the cursor is actually in. By clicking in any one of the entries as you scroll through the database, the number in the icon will change depending on which record you have selected.

While "Browsing" through the database, it is possible to click in one of the fields of any record and enter or change information

3. Scrolling through the database to find a record can take a lot of time, especially if the database is a large one. Therefore, there are ways to find specific records.

a. Find. The Find function searches the database for records that contain information that you are looking for in a record. From the Layout Menu, select Find (or Shift- -F) and type in the information you want to find in the appropriate field or fields. Then click Visible (on the left side of your screen) to search the visible records only or All to search both the visible records and any records that might be temporarily hidden.

If you want to find a record containing the name Charles, typing in "Charles" will get records of persons whose first name is Charles last name might be Charles or Charlesworth. You can minimize this by typing a space before and/or after the value to select only the word "Charles" so that others containing that letter combination would be excluded.

Note that entries for different scientists might contain key words that take a slightly different form. For example, one might be listed as a physiologist, while another might have the field itself listed (physiology). Both words contain the same "root," physiol, and this can be used to find either entry. Also note that entering physi for the root will also get physics, physicist, astrophysics, etc.

b. Record Matching. This function searches specific fields for all records that meet certain requirements (criteria). You could accomplish the same thing by doing several Find requests, but Matching Records streamlines the process. For example, you might search the Scientists database for all scientists born in the 18th Century with one search. Matched records are highlighted and the remainder continue to be visible but unhighlighted unless you choose to hide them (Organize Menu). On the other hand, if you are FINDing records, only the found records will be visible; the others are hidden (but still in the database, of course).

From the Organize Menu, select Match Records (or type -M from the keyboard). If you want to find all scientists who were born in the 18th Century, for example, you would click on the And function from the box on the right. Within the parentheses, you will find two expressions separated by a comma; the first is highlighted. These two variables specify the dates of the 18th Century. Click on Birthyear and type in => 1700. For the second variable click on Birthyear and type in <1800. Your completed entry should look like the following:

AND('Birthyear'>=1700,'Birthyear'<1800)

Click OK and the matched records will appear in highlighted format.

You may choose to hide all unselected records by selecting the appropriate choice under the Organize Menu at the top of your screen. It's easy to forget that you do not have all the records showing if you check Hide, so don't forget to select show all records when you have completed your match.


4. SORT RECORDS. This function allows you to arrange all or just the selected records in some order (e.g., alphabetically, numerically, chronologically, etc.). This feature is also found under the Organize Menu. Select Sort Records (or use the keyboard equivalent, -J). When the dialogue box appears, select the field that you wish to use for sorting. For example, you might sort the list of scientists alphabetically. Having selected the field to be used for sorting, click on Move to move that field into the right-hand box. This way, you can sort on more than one thing at a time. You might, for example alphabetize them and put them in chronological order by birthdates at the same time.

(You can also choose to sort in an ascending or descending fashion by clicking on the appropriate button near the lower right of the dialogue box.)

5. PRINT RECORDS. The print function allows you to print out (or make a hardcopy) of all or selected records. If you have selected certain records by Matching, you will no doubt only want to print those records. To do this, Hide the unselected records; then select Print (or -P) from the File Menu. To print the entire database, simply select Print without hiding any records.

You can also copy selected data from the database and paste it into a word processing document that you are writing. Answering the questions at the end of this chapter will require you to do this. Here is how to do it:
a. Without closing your database file, open a new word-processing document by clicking on "New" under the File Menu.

b. Pull down the View Menu and click on the database file (DB) at the bottom. You will then be swiltched back to the Scientists database.

c. Do your search in the database to answer the first question. Organize the selected records as necessary (alphabetically, chrolonolically, etc.). You will probably want the information in the "List" format (under the Layout Menu) rather than "Browse."

d. When you have collected the information required in the question, drag the mouse to block it. Copy the blocked piece to the clipboard.

e. Pull down the View Menu and click on the word processor document (WP). Position the cursor at the desired location and Paste the selected information from the clipboard.
f. Format your word processor document as desired with numbering, tabbing, margins, etc.

6. These are the basic functions in the program. There are a number of "whistles and bells" that increase the utility of the program (print size, type style, transfer to other parts of ClarisWorks, etc.), but these can be picked up as necessary. Mostly, you will find that it is a matter of following directions and responding in an appropriate fashion to the questions asked on-screen.


QUESTIONS

The following questions require you to search a completed database on Scientists to find the information requested. Use the Word Processor application of the ClarisWorks package to record and print your answers. Refer to the information on the previous page for instructions for moving between files (i.e., between the database file and a word processor file).

1. How many records contain the letter "z"? Whose records are they?

2. List the scientists in the database who are regarded as the "Father" of some particular discipline in science (e.g., the Father of Modern Medicine)? Include the subject with which they are associated as "Father."

3. How many people in the database are from (a) Germany? (b) England? (c) United States?

4. List (in alphabetical order) the scientists in the database whose birthdays are in the 1920s.

5. How many of the scientists in the database were born in the 1700s? List them along with their respective birthyears.

6. (a) Which scientists have won Nobel Prizes? (b) Indicate those who have won more than one Nobel Prize.

7. How many of the scientists listed in the database are women? List them.

8. Which scientists have contributed specifically to the field of astronomy.

9. List the scientists, including their birthdates and death dates, who lived only during the 18th Century. Put the list in chronological order by date of birth. Indicate the largest number of those in your list who were alive at the same time.

10. List the scientists, their nationalities, and awards (prizes) of all scientists in the database who were born in the 20th Century and who are no longer living. (Print the list alphabetically by nationality and alphabetically within each nationality represented.)

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