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Databases

Schematic of a mediawiki database [ Photo credit Donose.mihai ]

 

A huge amount of businesses and non-profit organisations rely heavily on databases to store vital information and also underpin online interactions with suppliers and customers alike. There really is no substitute for an organized collection of accessible data - especially a database with a good data management system. The management system needs to allow for these common operations in the very least:

  • creating and defining a table
  • deleting a table
  • querying
    • one table
    • across joined tables
    • by one or more attributes/fields
    • with regular expressions
  • updating records

Facilitating these operations allow the database to accurately capture and represent data as well as providing a basic model of the information and means for further analysis - all of which are invaluable to market research. A good data management system allows easy interfacing between the database and a human user or application/program querying it. It should also allow for some metadata to be stored about the tables within the database as a whole. Generally, each record in a database will have some primary key identifier so that even if, for example, you have two customers called John Smith that bought a cellphone, their other attributes would not get mixed up.

Due to their widespread use and importance, database research is an active research topic, and has been that way since the 1960s. E.F. Codd's relational databases were a large step forward and most databases today follow his relational model (as does the general type described here). In addition to database theory like this, the production of prototypes is an active sub-field of database research, along with models, the concept of atomic transaction and related concurrency control techniques. Top database research academic journals include ACM, TODS (Transactions on Database Systems) and DKE (Data and Knowledge Engineering). There are also conferences on the subject held annually which enjoy widespread attendance from this generation's foremost minds on database theory.

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