Organising and Designing Quantitative Data

Quantitative data

3. Choosing the right tools

3.2 Databases


  • proprietary: Microsoft Access, Filemaker (Mac);
  • open source: MySQL, SQLite;
  • XML databases: eXist, baseX


  • databases (or 'database management systems') can store, retrieve and manipulate much larger and more complex datasets than spreadsheets
  • most database systems are 'relational': this means that multiple tables can be linked together using "key" fields.


  • database software is not as easy to learn to use; open source databases in particular tend not to have friendly user interfaces; MySQL requires a server for installation
  • you need to spend much more time planning and designing your database before you can get started. (But from the data management point of view this may not be a disadvantage at all!)
  • databases are primarily storage rather than analytical tools; for most analysis and visualisations you will usually need additional software.