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Database Help

Monday, 12 April 2010

Help - Database

For a general introduction please read Database Guide. To access the databases, please use the sub-menu of Data Menu item above. 

Introduction

This guide is a work in progress, so we hope it helps you but if your question is not answered here, then email the link above for us to consider amending this guide. However, we do assume you already know the basics of using your web browser.

What is the Database System

It is our website interface to display, edit and search data records available within NHA. It is based on a specific software system developed and maintained by third parties. It is very robust and has many features. It does not have the resources of a Google search system but used correctly, it can find information in our database more effectively than a Google search.

Terms in the Database and our guidance notes

The world of databases has grown to use many word terms that may have similar meanings. Here are some typical terms and their similarities:

How can I Search the Databases

It is not a Google search facility and we do not have the resources to create the perfect search system. However, we keep looking at developments and are disposed to introduce them if time and cost effective.

The first option is a Search "All" box that is a simple text search of all allowed search fields in the data table. It is not an advanced multi-parameter Google like search. It is best used for just one word or short phrase or part of a word.

Sometimes additional Search Filters are also present to allow various types of searches on specific data fields. A data field is a coloumn header in the table or a row header in the record "View" display.

An additional "Advanced Search" link may also be present to allow search combinations not already set as Search Filters.

The best Search is one that starts with a simple query one or two fields and maybe a word. This can then be refined if too many results eventuate. The user may too often get no results if they start with a complex search.

You may also attempt to find data in the database using Our Site Search which searches some of the fields of some tables and displays results in a record/form basis rather than a table as done by the database search facility.

You may also attempt a Google search but this will depend on how far Google can index the data in our database. We recommend using the "Google Custom Search" box directly below the horizontal menu and above the tables in our website. This defaults to first searching Google index records of our website as well as some other preferred natural history related websites.

You can discuss these option further in our Forum here where you have Forum user level access.

Tips for the general database search box

The database search box starts its display as a simple text search. Please note the following tips:

Case Sensitivity

General Searches are case insensitive.If you find this is not the case, please contact us as this may be a setting error for a particular database table.

However the Advanced Search may be case sensitive in some instances. We hope the software developers remove this requirement in the future. For Advanced Searches, before searching, please look at the first few rows of the table to see the case usage of the fields where your search terms may reside and use that case in your search terms.

Single/Multiple Words

These may be single word or a complete phrase. The search box will default to require all the search words in a data table field (coloumn) for a record. It is not a general Google type search of words in the table. For word combinations across fields then use the advanced search function to choose content to search in specific fields.

Advanced Search

The database "Advanced Search" link will open a pop-up window to add multiple search criteria using its "Add" function.

This provides a user-friendly way to perform complex searches incorporating operators. If you need additional search boxes, click the "Add" at the top left of the pop-up box.

The middle boxes are preset with search operators like the CONTAINS operator. You may change this as desired.

Retrieving too much

Searches will retrieve up to 50,000 results. If your search strategy is too broad, it will retrieve too many documents to reasonably explore and review.

Memory Error Messages

If you get a message that looks like:

Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 268435456 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 106 bytes) in /home/natural2/public_html/tmsite/libraries/joomla/database/database/mysql.php on line 462

this means that your database searching activity has overloaded the server memory allocation. Just hit your browser back button or link to go back to your previous spot in the website and then log out of the website and log back in to clear the error.

User Session Timing out

Once you have initiated a databases search session by logging into the system accessing the search screen, you may continue searching indefinitely, as long as you are actively moving about the system executing searches, viewing results, browsing content lists, etc. If the databases system has not detected any activity from you for greater than 240 minutes, your search session may time out and be terminated. In order to continue searching, you must login again.

Stop words

There are no stop words in this system. Stop Words or Noise Words are defined as those commonly used words like “the” or “an” that a search engine will filter out automatically from a search string. Since the databases contains a unique collection of resources using phrases and concepts that are not necessarily in common language usage, the search capability does not remove these words. This allows you total freedom in searching for variant spellings as well as unique phrasing.

Symbols and numbers as search terms


Some characters are used as “operators” in search statements (see following section). These symbolic operators are NOT recommended for general use. Symbols such as : ; $ may be used as part of a search statement, although they are not searched.

All numbers are directly searchable. For example, a date like 1854 may be used as part of a search statement. Using a year only is not recommended. Normally, dates should be used in combination with other search terms.

Symbols and operators

Symbols are available but it is strongly recommended that they not be used.

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching is also called free-text searching and is done through the first seen general search text box. A keyword search will automatically retrieve words or phrases from all fields within the databases if no restrictions are placed on the search. If desired, however, searches may be restricted to a particular field or fields (see Advanced Search section for more information).

Phrase searching

To search for a specific phrase, type the phrase in the search box.

Truncation and wildcards

Due to the nature of the contents of the databases, there are many variant spellings and what we today consider to be archaic spellings of words. Therefore a searcher should keep in mind these factors. The ability to truncate a term is very important to search for part of a word in case of name variances. There is no wild-card feature.

Sorting Results

The default sort is chosen by the table contributor and may be any field in the table. This default may be changed to obtain a different results order where the field title at the top of the table is a hyper-link as you can click on it to resort the table by that field. But once one field is sorted then subsequent alternate field sorts may be dependent on the first sort. You can clear the table and start again if you make an inappropriate sorting choice.

Viewing Results

Once search terms and limiters have been entered, and (if desired) a sort option selected, the search may now be executed by clicking the “Go” button or using your "Enter" key.

When “Go” is clicked, between 10 to 50 record listings will be displayed at a time. Individual document results may then be viewed by clicking on the hyper-linked "view" at the end of the row for that record of the listing.

You also may navigate through paginated results list with the menu below the table of results.

Printing

Documents may be printed directly from the display using your browser's print features. However, when printing is conducted in this manner, additional and possibly unnecessary information, including the website banner and reproductions of the navigation features, also will be included.

For a much more legible and less cluttered display suitable for printing, click “Print Version,” which opens a text only document in another browser window. Then use your browser's print features to proceed. Up to 100 results may be printed at a time.

E-MAILING A DOCUMENT

It is possible to e-mail results, one document at a time, to any established e-mail system. You do not need to be connected to an e-mail provider for this service. Simply click on “Email” and a new screen will appear that has boxes to fill in for the recipient's e-mail address, sender name, and any comments. When the e-mail is transmitted, the subject line of the message will read “the databases has sent you a document on behalf of .”

Clear Search Results

To clear the search history, click “clear”. Once you close your browser or logout, the search history is automatically purged.

If you do not click "clear" then additional searches may be performed on the search results and NOT the full table.

Technical assistance

For additional technical assistance, please use the Forum in the Members Menu area. The Forum is only available for NHA members.

Hours of operation for the databases' technical support are voluntary as we are a community volunteer association. So please do not expect service you may get for paying substantial service dollars.

End FAQ

These notes are in development. If you have a suggestion, please use the contact form below. This contact form is not an alternative to reading these help notes or for members using the Forum.

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