PREPARING and USING A DATABASE
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
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,
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.
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
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