How does a database work?

Updated April 17, 2017

Databases are exceedingly common and are used for many computer applications, both locally and online. However, as frequently used as they are, many computer users are unfamiliar with databases and even intimidated by them. A database is, simply put, an organised collection of data. The manner in which information is entered into a database makes it easy to retrieve, format and manipulate. All that is required is the knowledge of the proper language. When you know how to query a database in the correct manner, it will yield the specific data in the format you request.

Relational Databases

The most frequently used type of database is called a "relational databases." In a relational database, there are several tables containing various information. Each table contains data that all have attributes related to the subject of the table. All of the tables might be interconnected, as well. For example, a retail business using a relational database would likely have one table containing data regarding employees, another with data regarding customers, another table listing inventory and so on. A database user could run a report to find connections between data in different tables, such as the customer table and the inventory table. For instance, it might list the names of customers who have purchased red and purple widgets in the past 90 days.


Building a database correctly is imperative in order to be able to retrieve information correctly. The first step that must be taken when creating a database is to evaluate what is required of the database. For instance, a business might want tables containing data on products, suppliers and orders while a school may need a database with tables on teachers, students and assignments. Once the table categories have been determined, the database can be created. Reports and forms can be made later to manipulate and combine data in different tables.


Another commonly used term in databases is the SQL - or "Structured Query Language." Because of the acronym, SQL is often referred to as "Sequel." SQL is the computer language used to request, retrieve and manipulate information from a relational database. Once a user learns basic Structured Query Language, she will realise that the data can be manipulated precisely to suit the requirements. For example, "Select" defines what info should be pulled, "From" allows users to specify from which table to pull the data and "Where" allows the users to enter a condition. For example, "SELECT StudentName FROM Classes WHERE Grade=B" might pull a list of the names of all the students from a table named Classes who currently have a B average. With ample time and practice, databases and database language can be mastered by anyone.

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About the Author

Tricia Goss' credits include Fitness Plus, Good News Tucson and Layover Magazine. She is certified in Microsoft application and served as the newsletter editor for She has also contributed to The Dollar Stretcher, Life Tips and Childcare Magazine.