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
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.

Data Types

When defining the fields in a database table, we must give each field a data type. For example, the field Birth Year is a year, so it will be a number, while First Name will be text. Most modern databases allow for several different data types to be stored. Some of the more common data types are listed here: 

• Text: for storing non-numeric data that is brief, generally under 256 characters. The database designer can identify the maximum length of the text. 

• Number: for storing numbers. There are usually a few different number types that can be selected, depending on how large the largest number will be. 

• Yes/No: a special form of the number data type that is (usually) one byte long, with a 0 for “No” or “False” and a 1 for “Yes” or “True”. 

• Date/Time: a special form of the number data type that can be interpreted as a number or a time. 

• Currency: a special form of the number data type that formats all values with a currency indicator and two decimal places. 

• Paragraph Text: this data type allows for text longer than 256 characters. 

• Object: this data type allows for the storage of data that cannot be entered via keyboard, such as an image or a music file. 

There are two important reasons that we must properly define the data type of a field. First, a data type tells the database what functions can be performed with the data. For example, if we wish to perform mathematical functions with one of the fields, we must be sure to tell the database that the field is a number data type. So if we have, say, a field storing birth year, we can subtract the number stored in that field from the current year to get age.

The second important reason to define data type is so that the proper amount of storage space is allocated for our data. For example, if the First Name field is defined as a text (50) data type, this means fifty characters are allocated for each first name we want to store. However, even if the first name is only five characters long, fifty characters (bytes) will be allocated. While this may not seem like a big deal, if our table ends up holding 50,000 names, we are allocating 50 * 50,000 = 2,500,000 bytes for storage of these values. It may be prudent to reduce the size of the field so we do not waste storage space.


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