Database, Data System, Data Warehouse What's the Difference?

Database: an organized collection of information or data elements, typically stored in a computer, that can be searched, sorted, reorganized, and analyzed rapidly. The following are database models:

  • Flat file: data in one record that cannot be linked to other records (a single table format)
  • Hierarchical: data in separate records that are attached to one root (one-to-one relationship)
  • Network: data in separate records that can be attached to multiple other records (many-to-many relationship)
  • Relational: data in a collection of tables without any hierarchy and that are physically independent
  • Object-oriented: data in separate records that can be linked to a variety of data objects like text, graphics, photos, video, and sound

Data system: a collection of computer programs that enable you to store, modify, and extract information from a database. One such data system is the Texas Public Education Information Resource.

Data warehouse: a combination of many different databases across an entire system to present an entire picture. Data are added but never removed. An example of a data warehouse is the Louisiana Educational Accountability Data System.

Sources: Date, C. J. (2003). An Introduction to Database Systems, 8th Ed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Next Page: SEDL Study on State Data Systems

Published in Insights on Educational Policy, Practice, and Research Number 18, December 2005, Enhancing Data Use and Quality to Shape Education Policy