This article provides some considerations regarding the decision of when to use Research versus using an entity in Slate.
The Nature of the Information
This primary consideration results from answering a few key questions about the nature of the information:
- What is the source of the information?
- Is the added information known by the person or student?
- Does adding the information require effort or work?
- Does adding the information require staff energy to find?
- Does the information contain contextual information that otherwise might not be known about the record?
If the information is something that the person or student would know about themselves (or would be aware that you know), then an entity might be the appropriate place for storing and managing the information. For example, a person’s committee memberships might be something that you and the person can both know and track, and information such as committee name, status, position, start date, and end date could be managed within an entity row.
Conversely, information such as a rating or one's capacity to give is likely something that you wouldn’t share with the person or student. Such information could be the result of considerable effort or expense, staff research time, or vendor resources. These types of values and sources add contextual information to the record that might not be known otherwise, and are not intended to be freely shared.
Shared Data Points
Within Slate, Research sources can use shared data points (called data keys). If multiple sources will reference the same information, using Research might be the preferred option.
As the Research Library grows, maintaining manual processes for creating and storing information within an entity can potentially become more complicated. Alternatively, Research can provide a global, standardized system to manage research information. For example, the iWave and DonorSearch library items contain the Research Source, the necessary data keys, the necessary prompts, a pre-mapped Source Format, and a standard query needed to export records to the external platform.
Materials and Permissions
Research allows research records to be directly associated with a material, providing a primary or backup source of information contained within the research record. For example, material such as a newspaper clipping about a particular source might contain details that are extracted and saved as individual data keys.
Research includes standard permissions and realm support, and does not require creating custom tabs or setting special permissions.
Making the Decision
Ultimately, deciding between using Research versus an entity requires a nuanced approach.
The nature of the information will likely be the single most important determining factor in your decision. But understanding the limits of each approach will also help you decide on the appropriate approach for your Slate database.