Designing the Database Structure
Once you have created a new database, you can quickly get started designing your data model and building your database structure.
Designing your Database Record Structure
The database structure is the collection of record type and field type definitions that comprise your database:
- Record Types. These define the type of entities or research objects you wish to capture (e.g. Person).
- Fields. These are the properties or attributes that describe your record types (e.g. Gender, Age, Height etc.).
Collectively, these define the information or data that can be stored in any record of that type. Changing database definitions does not invalidate existing data. In this way the database can grow as your research progresses.
When you create a new standard database, a ‘starter’ base set of commonly used predefined record types (e.g. Web Page, Person, Organisation, Digital Media etc.) and field types (Author, Given Names, Chapter Title etc.) are copied to the new database. Creating an ‘extended’ database simply copies over additional record and field types required for more specialised data.
You can choose to use the predefined record and field type definitions as is or modify them, or create new ones as you wish.
The record types defined in the database are grouped under tabs across the top of the page. These tabs are simply an organisational convenience. Tabs can be reordered by dragging, and created/deleted/renamed through the +/- tab on the right. Record types can be moved from tab to tab by selecting from the Group dropdown on each line.
Note. Field types are also organised into tabs in the same way.
Modifying a Predefined Record Type Definition
You can reuse and fine-tune the predefined record types:
- Replace generic field names with specific names appropriate to your database.
- Update context help text with more relevant details.
- Remove unneeded fields.
- Add new fields.
- Create and add new field types
- Edit title masks (see Define title Mask below)
Defining a Title Mask
Title masks allow you to define composite titles that can be constructed dynamically from field values. The fields are populated on-the-fly when the record is generated. For example:
[Title], pp. [Start_Page]-[End_Page]
renders the Title field and Start Page and End Page fields as (for example):
Alice in Wonderland, pp. 37-39.
Create a New Record Type
If a suitable record type does not already exist, it is easy to create a new record type from scratch. Once you have specified a name and other properties, you can specify the set of fields that describe the record type.
You can re-use standard fields (e.g. Title, Date, Summary, Mappable Location etc.) or fields from other record types, or create entirely new field types (see below).
Note. We recommend re-using fields where possible as it makes it easier to search across multiple record types and write output formats. You can still tailor field behaviour (see below) individually for each record type.
Creating a New Field Type
When creating a new field type you choose from a range of underlying data types that cover a wide range of data requirements, such as single or multi line text, numeric, date/temporal, term lists (see below), geospatial etc.
You can also define how to link records together via two specialised field types: Record Pointer and Relationship Markers (see Relate).
When creating a new field type you can add a description, help text and control visibility and grouping.
You can reuse new field types across the database or other databases, with the ability to tailor instances of the fields per record type, as well as controlling field expression/usage (e.g. required, recommended or optional, single or repeatable values etc.).
Setting Field Behaviour
When you choose to use a field type (either pre-defined or user-defined) within a record, you can further define its behaviour in this particular instance through additional settings. Along with settings for prompts, field width, help text, default values, you can set the following:
- Requirement. Heurist has four levels of ‘requiredness’: Required, Recommended, Optional and Hidden. Optional fields can be turned off during data entry to provide a simplified form for routine work. Hidden is useful for information that is created automatically.
- Repeatability. Any data field can be made repeatable; that is, the user can enter multiple values (e.g. for multiple authors, alternative names, multiple categories), up to an optional limit.
- Status. This is used for publishing purposes and can be: Open, Pending, Approved.
- Visibility. Determines whether the field is hidden or viewable to non-owners.