Mastering Relational Databases: from Models to Querying

Libby Shoop Macalester College Saint Paul, MN, USA


What this book is for

This book has the following intended purposes:

  1. To accompany additional detailed reading material by making it possible for you to actively bring to life and practice the concepts that you read about.

  2. To guide you through the process of creating data based on existing data models using SQL. The syntax you will see is that of of SQLite, which is run inside your browser in the pages of this active book.

  3. To guide you through formation of queries by visually mapping them out using diagrams before translating them to SQL for execution.

What this book is not

This book is not a substitute for a good book about conceptual data modeling. The readings here assume that you have begun to master the concepts of modeling data to be stored in a relational database. We will use illustrations using Logical Data Structure (LDS) notation, as presented in:

Mastering Data Modeling, A User-Driven Approach, by John Carlis and Joseph Maguire. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2000. ISBN 9780134176536

This book is not a full reference to the SQL standard or its implementation in SQLite. You should practice looking up additional details about the syntax presented here. If you are using another database system for your work, you will want to have useful references on hand for it. What you see here will be examples to get you started.

This book is not a substitute for attempting more data creation and analysis of larger sets of data, using different database management systems. I strongly suggest that you practice the techniques you see here by attempting increasingly more sophisticated queries on larger databases using MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, or SQLite installed on a server, virtual machine, desktop, or laptop. This book presents the basics, and you should practice further with your own data.

Part 1: From conceptual models to SQL data creation

The first four chapters linked below will guide you through the basic mechanisms typically used to implement tables in relational databases and to generate data instances and store them in tables. Basic querying is included just to verify the data has been created. This material is not exhaustive, but rather illustrative of basic features of SQL. As you practice, you will want to consult other more detailed references for the database system you are using in practice.

Part 2: Mastering Database Querying with Relational Algebra and SQL

Beginning with Chapter 5, ‘Relational Databases, Querying and Analysis’, we will go through how to design queries using a graphical notation based on relational database theory that helps you think clearly about what data results you can expect from operations on data relations (a special form of data tables). With a design in hand, you will then be able to create correct queries using SQL– we guide you through that process with simple examples to begin with, and increase the complexity as you progress through the book.

Table of Contents

Note that chapters 14 - 17 are somewhat advanced material. Instructors, I’ve included them because I typically am able to cover these topics in a semester course when I am concentrating on mastering querying. If you want to include different topics, such as NoSQL databases, you may want to drop some of these later chapters.

Recognition and Thanks

A great deal of the material in part 2 was originally written by John Carlis for an audience that included a wide range of people, from undergraduate and graduate students to experienced computing professionals. His unpublished manuscript was entitled “Mastering Database Querying and Analysis”. Its primary focus was relational algebra precedence charts. In 2015, three years before his death, he had given me permission to edit a copy of his material to make it approachable for undergraduate students. This online book is the result of my attempt at that task, most of which I am completing after his death. I have also changed the presentation to interleave data models and SQL in part 1 and relational algebra concepts and SQL querying in part 2. This work is therefore a derivative of Professor Carlis’ original work.

Original unpublished work: Copyright © 1999 - 2015, John V. Carlis.

This work: Copyright © 2019-2020, Elizabeth G. Shoop—all rights reserved.

I wish to extend thanks to Brad Miller and the Runestone Interactive team, whose software platform enabled me to create this interactive book. John Carlis always believed in learning by practicing and being active; this technology enables you to do that, and I believe he would be happy with what we are trying to do here.

I also wish to thank Yiyi Yuan, a student a Macalester College, who helped me develop many of the exercises in the second part of this book.

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