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Data Processing Basic Terminology

Dec 10

Written by:
12/10/2007 11:09 AM  RssIcon


This article is just a quick overview of the most basic terms used in describing data and how they fit together.  I am going to start with the smallest piece and work up from there.

Datum / Data

A single fact or piece of information.  The word derives from Latin for "something given."  Data is the plural form of datum.  It is, however often used as a singular to describe a whole collection of data as a single unit.

Example:

95838

Field

A field describes a single unit of information such as a name, phone number or ZIP code.

Example:

ZIP: 95838

Record

Records are a collection of fields that go together, such as a person's name, address and/or phone number.

Example:

Company: Wordmasters
Address: 120 Main Avenue, Suite 1A
City: Sacramento
State: CA
ZIP: 95838

Table

Tables are a collection of records that go together, such as a list of contacts, customers, invoices, employees etc.  In the mailing industry these are often called lists or mailing lists.  They are also called data tables.

Example:

Company

Address

City

State

ZIP

ACME

123 Any Street

Anytown

CA

99999

Wordmasters

120 Main Avenue, Suite 1A

Sacramento

CA

95838

XYZ Corporation

456 Some St

Somewhere

CA

99999

 Database

A database is a collection of tables that go together and usually relate to one another, such as a customers table and an invoice table.

Example:

This is an example of 2 tables related on customer number.  In this example XYZ Corporation has one Invoice, Wordmasters has no Invoices and ACME has 2 Invoices.

 Clients:

Customer Number

Company

Address

City

State

ZIP

1

ACME

123 Any Street

Anytown

CA

99999

2

Wordmasters

120 Main Avenue, Suite 1A

Sacramento

CA

95838

3

XYZ Corporation

456 Some Street

Somewhere

CA

99999

 Invoices:

Customer Number

Date

Description

Amount

1

11/1/2007

Did some work

$203.00

3

11/2/2007

Sold something

$504.34

1

11/2/2007

Did some more work

$693.22

 Relationship of Data to Spreadsheets

Often people store data in spreadsheets.  The following is how the terms above would relate to spreadsheet terms:

Data   Spreadsheet
Datum = Cell
Field = Column
Record = Row
Table = Sheet
Database = Workbook

Hopefully that covers most of what you need to know about the basic terms. 

If you think I missed something or think something could be clearer, let me know.

 

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