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How to enter nothing in a database
For an update on this topic, see this BASHing data post.
I call them NITS, which is short for Nothing Interesting To Say. They're the filler items that appear in spreadsheets and databases when the person entering the data has no information for a particular field. Here are some real-world examples from the databases I've audited:
Besides these all-purpose NITS, I've also seen filler items tailored to specific fields. Sometimes these almost have information content. Examples:
- In biological records databases there's often a field for identifications of particular species. When the species hasn't been identified, the entry might be "Not identified", "Indeterminate", "Indet." etc.
- In one museum's database, the number of individual specimens was given where known. The entry was "0" for thousands of records where there must have been at least 1 specimen.
- In fields in other databases where a date should be entered, I've seen "no date" and "n.d."
NITS are a nuisance in data cleaning. Like blank records and blank fields, they contribute nothing useful to a database and muck up the tally of a field's contents.
If you have nothing to enter in a field for a particular record, there's nothing wrong with leaving the data item blank. Please?
Last update: 2021-12-24
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