Don’t fear the database: SQL v. SPARQL
As I previously mentioned in my introduction blog, this year my CHI project is directly related to the project myself and Katy Meyers Emery are working on for the Digital Archaeology Institute. ossuaryKB – The Mortuary Method & Practice Knowledge Base seeks to create a singular location where mortuary archaeologists can see best practices, exemplar case studies, innovative methods and more. We want the site to be functional, allowing people to easily find projects, articles, or forms based on identifiers or keywords. Creating a functional database that will do this is easier said than done. My focus for CHI this year it to create this database.
The best place to begin is by looking to see how other sites have tackled this challenge. One of the most applicable formats we’ve found is DiRT Directory (Digital Research Tools) a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use.
There are many ways to create a searchable database. Perhaps the most familiar is structured query language (SQL). SQL is a programming language used in relational database management systems (RDBMS). RDMS’s are common in archaeology. There are many free courses and tutorials for learning SQL, including introduction to databases mini-courses offered by Standford.
Coursera also offers several courses on databases and relational algebra, including SQL:
Learning a programming language like SQL may seem intimidating, but like most computer programing language it just takes a little while to become familiar with the structure. Once mastered, it can be an invaluable tool for conducting research.
Another query language that was introduced at the Digital Archaeology Institute is SPARQL. SPARQL, like SQL, is a query language for databases. The main differences is that SPARQL can be used to access relational data, like SQL, but it also accesses data via a web of Linked Data (good overview of differences). If you’re interested in trying out SPARQL try this tutorial .
So, how am I going to build this database? Right now, I’m not sure. But I’ll share my trials and tribulations along the way.