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Understanding Databases
Last Updated: Apr 11, 2023

What is a database?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a database is “a structured set of data held in computer storage and typically accessed or manipulated by means of specialized software." OED

How do they work?

Simply put, databases are repositories of organized information. Library databases, such as those accessible through the GVSU Library website, contain informational resources in the form of books, ebooks, scholarly journals, magazines, video, and much more. Examples of other databases are the list of contacts in a cell phone or email directory, or how Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites store and link information. 

Let’s take a look at what’s happening behind the scenes when you use a database: 


  • Databases store information using a structure that outlines how the database works. 
  • For example, the structure would state that Information is stored virtually using rows, called records, and columns, known as fields.
  • When you search for specific information within the database, this is called an operation.
  • Searches use keywords to identify the information you need.
  • For example, if you’re searching for resources on how social media use affects the social interactions of adolescent-aged children, then some keywords might be social media, social interaction, adolescent-aged, and children.

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