Building and using databases for historical research

Online registrations for this course are now open.
Course tutor(s): 
Self taught (online)


The aim of this training course is to equip you with the skills required to build and use a relational database suited to historical research. Creating databases can be a relatively simple process, especially with today’s desktop software, which is geared to offering help at every stage; with a little bit of extra effort additional functionality can be built into the ‘database application’ which will enable it to form the most valuable and powerful of customised research tools. Entering data into the database can be a time-consuming endeavour, but if it is done correctly into a well-designed database then the potential improvements offered in terms of information management and analysis more than repays the effort. This course continues from the free online course Designing databases for historical research handbook

Course details

The aim of this training course is to equip you with the skills required to build and utilise a relational database suited to historical research. It is a non-tutor led course that can be completed at your own pace and at a time of your own choosing.

This course is a continuation of the free online course Designing databases for historical research handbook, which provides a free introduction for historians who wish to create databases. Building and Using Databases for Historical Research takes you through the entire process of creating and using databases and is, therefore, a much larger and comprehensive course. As such it is recommended to work your way through the Designing databases for historical research handbook before embarking on this course.

When you register for this course you will work through three modules that look at the following aspects of building and using databases:

Module 1 introduces the tools and techniques used in building a database for historical research. It covers the process of constructing related tables to accommodate your data, as well as introducing a number of practical measures that you can employ to control the quality of the data that you create. The Module also addresses what you need to do to incorporate existing data into a newly-constructed database.

Module 2 introduces the numerous ways that database tools can help you ask research questions of your data, ranging from simply finding individual instances of information at the micro level, through to providing complex networking and record linkage overviews. This Module also provides a basic introduction to employing queries highlight statistical patterns in large bodies of data through aggregation tools.

Module 3 addresses two main aspects of using a database in a historical research project: 'managing' the database and generating research output. The former element introduces various methods for ensuring good practice in terms of file and version control, back up and documentation - all important aspects of making sure the database is useful to your research; whilst the latter looks at ways of extracting data in various formats (including visual) to share with other historians.

Download Further information about this course here

The course was written by Dr Mark Merry, the primary tutor for the face to face courses Databases for Historians I and Databases for Historians II.  Dr Merry also wrote the Designing Databases for Historical Research handbook, which forms the preliminary starting point for this course.