1.4.1C: Normalization of a Database
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When designing a database, one important concept to understand is normalization. In simple terms, to normalize a database means to design it in a way that: 1) reduces duplication of data between tables and 2) gives the table as much flexibility as possible.
In the Student Clubs database design, the design team worked to achieve these objectives. For example, to track memberships, a simple solution might have been to create a Members field in the Clubs table and then just list the names of all of the members there. However, this design would mean that if a student joined two clubs, then his or her information would have to be entered a second time. Instead, the designers solved this problem by using two tables: Students and Memberships.
In this design, when a student joins their first club, we first must add the student to the Students table, where their first name, last name, e-mail address, and birth year are entered. This addition to the Students table will generate a student ID. Now we will add a new entry to denote that the student is a member of a specific club. This is accomplished by adding a record with the student ID and the club ID in the Memberships table. If this student joins a second club, we do not have to duplicate the entry of the student’s name, e-mail, and birth year; instead, we only need to make another entry in the Memberships table of the second club’s ID and the student’s ID.
The design of the Student Clubs database also makes it simple to change the design without major modifications to the existing structure. For example, if the design team were asked to add functionality to the system to track faculty advisors to the clubs, we could easily accomplish this by adding a Faculty Advisors table (similar to the Students table) and then adding a new field to the Clubs table to hold the Faculty Advisor ID.