Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Entity-Relationship Diagramming: Part III

In this Entity-Relationship series, I'm attempting to present an alternative to standard, decomposition-style normalization.

In Entity-Relationship Diagramming: Part I, I grouped all the objects in my business narrative into either Entities or Attributes. Entities are groups of Attributes and Attribute describe Entities.

In Entity-Relationship Diagramming Part II, I defined the relationships between my entities. Relationships store information about how your Entities interact. Figure 1 shows where I left off.

Figure 1: Relationships Between Entities.

Unfortunately, I'm not done yet, for two reasons: 1) as I said in What is Normalization: Part V, many-to-many relationships cannot be directly implemented in a relational database, and 2) I still have an unassigned attribute. So first I'll rationalize the many-to-many relationship and then take another look.

To rationalize a many-to-many relationship between two tables, you create a third table -- an "intersection" or "linking" table. Then you create one-to-many relationships between the linking table and each of the main tables, with the "many-side" of both relationships on the linking table.

As you can see above, Employee and Certifications have a many-to-many relationship, so I need to create a new entity (Employee/Certifications). Sometimes linking tables have logical names. Other times, they don't. In that case, I simply combine the names of the base tables.

Figure 2 shows how the rationalized relationship is diagramed.

Figure 2: Rationalized Employee-Certification Relationship

Now I can see where to put my unassigned Certification Date field. The Employee/Certification entity represents a certification for a particular employee and that can be given at only one time. Therefore the Certification Date field goes in this new entity. Figure 3 shows the completed Attribute Grid.

Figure 3: Final Attribute Grid

Now that I've got all the relationships between my entities identified and assigned all the attributes, I can put it all into one diagram.

Figure 4: Final E-R Diagram

Now I've got all the pieces. All that's left is to implement my diagram in Access (or some other database). In Entity-Relationship Diagramming: Part IV, I'll do just that.



Anonymous said...

A very good explanation thank you.There are a number of styles or conventions used in drawing E/R diagrams e.g "Chen notation,Crow's foot,Barker,IE,IDEF1X. But what MS Access Use?? help please

mikemaths said...

Thank you for the detail. Great post. Prefer Chen notation as anon said...