Solved: search for column name in sql db when i don’t know which table it is in

Dealing with a vast database in SQL can often present various challenges. One of such tasks would involve looking for a specific column name in a SQL database when you are unsure about which table it consists of. Through this guide, we would resolve this dilemma, offering a systematic way to execute this task. This would mean delving into the depths of SQL programming, querying systems, and schemas, breaking apart the code to simplify the steps for you.

The Problem

Sometimes, you might find yourself in a situation where you are given a column name but do not have information about which table it belongs to. In large databases with numerous tables, manually checking each table for the required column can be a time-consuming and error-prone process.

The Solution: A Query to the Rescue

The good news is, SQL provides you the solution for this problem by using its system views. Below is a query that would help retrieve the required information:

SELECT AS table_name,
SCHEMA_NAME(schema_id) AS schema_name, AS column_name
FROM sys.tables AS t
WHERE LIKE '%YourColumnName%'
ORDER BY schema_name, table_name;

Step by Step Explanation of the Code

Let’s take a closer look at the SQL syntax and logic used to approach this problem efficiently:

  • SELECT AS table_name,SCHEMA_NAME(schema_id) AS schema_name, AS column_name: Here we are selecting the names of the tables, their schema, and column names from the system views.
  • FROM sys.tables AS t: From this, we select the system view ‘sys.tables’. It is aliased as ‘t’ for simplification, which later assists in the joining condition.
  • INNER JOIN sys.columns c ON t.OBJECT_ID = c.OBJECT_ID: Here, we perform an INNER JOIN operation to combine rows from sys.tables and sys.columns whenever the join condition (t.OBJECT_ID = c.OBJECT_ID) is met.
  • WHERE LIKE ‘%YourColumnName%’: This filters out the column names based on the condition specified in the WHERE clause. Replace ‘YourColumnName’ with the column name you are looking for.
  • ORDER BY schema_name, table_name;: Finally, the results are ordered by ‘schema_name’ and ‘table_name’ for readability.

It’s a straightforward query which carries out a thorough search, sparing you the manual labor of checking each table.

The SQL System Views

The SQL Server system views provide an extensive repository of system information, which can be used to carry out such intense activities. Particularly, in our case, `sys.tables`, representing a list of all existing tables and `sys.columns` representing all column information for any table, form the backbone of our query.


The INNER JOIN selection is one of the widely used SQL joins, as it returns the records that have matching values in both tables involved in the join. Here, we used it to confer between the table and column mappings.

Searching for column names in an enormous SQL database has never been easier. Indeed, SQL’s versatility lies in its ability to navigate and manage large amounts of data with relative ease. This discussion is a testament to that capability, simplifying a task that would otherwise be fairly cumbersome.

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