Microsoft Access
Database software


This section offers a background to the use of Microsoft Access.  You will need to load Access only when you read through and understand the information.

Access basics - "Tables, records and fields"

1. The first thing to understand is exactly what a database is.  Quite simply a database is a whole load of information grouped together.  If you think about the word "database", you can remember what it is by thinking that it is a "base" for all your "data"!

2. Databases are useful tools as they can hold huge amounts of data that you can use to find out answers.  When you ask a database a question it is known as "querying the database".

3. The data can be anything from names and addresses to complex information such as all the different parts that are needed to make a car.  At school you might use a database to search through information about castles in history or census data for geography.

4. A database uses "tables" of data.  Each table contains "records" which are shown below as "rows":

5. It seems tricky - but isn't really.  Just try to remember the different terms.  Each record contains "fields" which are different parts of the record.

6. Look again at the diagram. Each record covers a different castle and each field gives you information about the castle such as its name or when it was built.

7. This is what a database is!  To find out information you query the database.  There are many different queries that can be made.  For example:

  • Which castles were in Cambridgeshire?

  • Which castles were built before 1300?

  • Which castles still exist today?

  • Which castles begin with the letter 'W'?

8. In our example, the answers are obvious.  We only have four records so you don't really need to use a computer at all.  Yet when you start to have larger databases it would be very difficult to sort through all the records.  Databases  can contain hundreds of thousands of records.  Using a computer you can find out information easily.

I'm ready for the tasks


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