Home > Articles > Data > SQL

The Database Normalization Process

📄 Contents

  1. Normalizing a Database
  2. Summary
  3. Q&A
  • Print
  • + Share This
Find out what normalization is and how your database can benefit from it (or suffer from it). Learn the advantages, disadvantages, and some techniques and guidelines to doing it yourself.
This chapter is from the book

In this hour, you learn the process of taking a raw database and breaking it into logical units called tables. This process is referred to as normalization. The normalization process is used by database developers to design databases in which it is easy to organize and manage data while ensuring the accuracy of data throughout the database.

The advantages and disadvantages of both normalization and denormalization of a database are discussed, as well as data integrity versus performance issues that pertain to normalization.

The highlights of this hour include

  • What normalization is

  • Benefits of normalization

  • Advantages of denormalization

  • Normalization techniques

  • Guidelines of normalization

  • The three normal forms

  • Database design

Normalizing a Database

Normalization is a process of reducing redundancies of data in a database. Normalization is a technique that is used when designing and redesigning a database. Normalization is a process or set of guidelines used to optimally design a database to reduce redundant data. The actual guidelines of normalization, called normal forms, will be discussed later in this hour. It was a difficult decision to decide whether to cover normalization in this book because of the complexity involved in understanding the rules of the normal forms this early on in your SQL journey. However, normalization is an important process that, if understood, will increase your understanding of SQL. We have attempted to simplify the process of normalization as much as possible in this hour. At this point, don't be overly concerned with all the specifics of normalization; it is most important to understand the basic concepts.

The Raw Database

A database that is not normalized may include data that is contained in one or more different tables for no apparent reason. This could be bad for security reasons, disk space usage, speed of queries, efficiency of database updates, and, maybe most importantly, data integrity. A database before normalization is one that has not been broken down logically into smaller, more manageable tables. Figure 4.1 illustrates the database used for this book before it was normalized.

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 The raw database.

Logical Database Design

Any database should be designed with the end user in mind. Logical database design, also referred to as the logical model, is the process of arranging data into logical, organized groups of objects that can easily be maintained. The logical design of a database should reduce data repetition or go so far as to completely eliminate it. After all, why store the same data twice? Naming conventions used in a database should also be standard and logical.

What Are the End User's Needs?

The needs of the end user should be one of the top considerations when designing a database. Remember that the end user is the person who ultimately uses the database. There should be ease of use through the user's front-end tool (a client program that allows a user access to a database), but this, along with optimal performance, cannot be achieved if the user's needs are not taken into consideration.

Some user-related design considerations include the following:

  • What data should be stored in the database?

  • How will the user access the database?

  • What privileges does the user require?

  • How should the data be grouped in the database?

  • What data is the most commonly accessed?

  • How is all data related in the database?

  • What measures should be taken to ensure accurate data?

Data Redundancy

Data should not be redundant, which means that the duplication of data should be kept to a minimum for several reasons. For example, it is unnecessary to store an employee's home address in more than one table. With duplicate data, unnecessary space is used. Confusion is always a threat when, for instance, an address for an employee in one table does not match the address of the same employee in another table. Which table is correct? Do you have documentation to verify the employee's current address? As if data management were not difficult enough, redundancy of data could prove to be a disaster.

The Normal Forms

The next sections discuss the normal forms, an integral concept involved in the process of database normalization.

Normal form is a way of measuring the levels, or depth, to which a database has been normalized. A database's level of normalization is determined by the normal form.

The following are the three most common normal forms in the normalization process:

  • The first normal form

  • The second normal form

  • The third normal form

Of the three normal forms, each subsequent normal form depends on normalization steps taken in the previous normal form. For example, to normalize a database using the second normal form, the database must first be in the first normal form.

The First Normal Form

The objective of the first normal form is to divide the base data into logical units called tables. When each table has been designed, a primary key is assigned to most or all tables. Examine Figure 4.2, which illustrates how the raw database shown in the previous figure has been redeveloped using the first normal form.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 The first normal form.

You can see that to achieve the first normal form, data had to be broken into logical units of related information, each having a primary key and ensuring that there are no repeated groups in any of the tables. Instead of one large table, there are now smaller, more manageable tables: EMPLOYEE_TBL, CUSTOMER_TBL, and PRODUCTS_TBL. The primary keys are normally the first columns listed in a table, in this case: EMP_ID, CUST_ID, and PROD_ID .

The Second Normal Form

The objective of the second normal form is to take data that is only partly dependent on the primary key and enter that data into another table. Figure 4.3 illustrates the second normal form.

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3 The second normal form.

According to the figure, the second normal form is derived from the first normal form by further breaking two tables down into more specific units.

EMPLOYEE_TBL split into two tables called EMPLOYEE_TBL and EMPLOYEE_PAY_TBL. Personal employee information is dependent on the primary key (EMP_ID), so that information remained in the EMPLOYEE_TBL (EMP_ID, LAST_NAME, FIRST_NAME, MIDDLE_NAME, ADDRESS, CITY, STATE, ZIP, PHONE, and PAGER). On the other hand, the information that is only partly dependent on the EMP_ID (each individual employee) is used to populate EMPLOYEE_PAY_TBL (EMP_ID, POSITION, POSITION_DESC, DATE_HIRE, PAY_RATE, and DATE_LAST_RAISE). Notice that both tables contain the column EMP_ID. This is the primary key of each table and is used to match corresponding data between the two tables.

CUSTOMER_TBL split into two tables called CUSTOMER_TBL and ORDERS_TBL. What took place is similar to what occurred in the EMPLOYEE_TBL. Columns that were partly dependent on the primary key were directed to another table. The order information for a customer is dependent on each CUST_ID, but does not directly depend on the general customer information in the original table.

The Third Normal Form

The third normal form's objective is to remove data in a table that is not dependent on the primary key. Figure 4.4 illustrates the third normal form.

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 The third normal form.

Another table was created to display the use of the third normal form. EMPLOYEE_PAY_TBL is split into two tables, one table containing the actual employee pay information and the other containing the position descriptions, which really do not need to reside in EMPLOYEE_PAY_TBL. The POSITION_DESC column is totally independent of the primary key, EMP_ID .

Naming Conventions

Naming conventions are one of the foremost considerations when you're normalizing a database. Names are how you will refer to objects in the database. You want to give your tables names that are descriptive of the type of information they contain so that the data you are looking for is easy to find. Descriptive table names are especially important for users querying the database that had no part in the database design. A company-wide naming convention should be set, providing guidance in the naming of not only tables within the database, but users, filenames, and other related objects. Designing and enforcing naming conventions is one of a company's first steps toward a successful database implementation.

Benefits of Normalization

Normalization provides numerous benefits to a database. Some of the major benefits include the following :

  • Greater overall database organization

  • Reduction of redundant data

  • Data consistency within the database

  • A much more flexible database design

  • A better handle on database security

Organization is brought about by the normalization process, making everyone's job easier, from the user who accesses tables to the database administrator (DBA) who is responsible for the overall management of every object in the database. Data redundancy is reduced, which simplifies data structures and conserves disk space. Because duplicate data is minimized, the possibility of inconsistent data is greatly reduced. For example, in one table an individual's name could read STEVE SMITH, whereas the name of the same individual reads STEPHEN R. SMITH in another table. Because the database has been normalized and broken into smaller tables, you are provided with more flexibility as far as modifying existing structures. It is much easier to modify a small table with little data than to modify one big table that holds all the vital data in the database. Lastly, security is also provided in the sense that the DBA can grant access to limited tables to certain users. Security is easier to control when normalization has occurred.

Data integrity is the assurance of consistent and accurate data within a database.

Referential Integrity

Referential integrity simply means that the values of one column in a table depend on the values of a column in another table. For instance, in order for a customer to have a record in the ORDERS_TBL table, there must first be a record for that customer in the CUSTOMER_TBL table. Integrity constraints can also control values by restricting a range of values for a column. The integrity constraint should be created at the table's creation. Referential integrity is typically controlled through the use of primary and foreign keys.

In a table, a foreign key, normally a single field, directly references a primary key in another table to enforce referential integrity. In the preceding paragraph, the CUST_ID in ORDERS_TBL is a foreign key that references CUST_ID in CUSTOMER_TBL.

Drawbacks of Normalization

Although most successful databases are normalized to some degree, there is one substantial drawback of a normalized database: reduced database performance. The acceptance of reduced performance requires the knowledge that when a query or transaction request is sent to the database, there are factors involved, such as CPU usage, memory usage, and input/output (I/O). To make a long story short, a normalized database requires much more CPU, memory, and I/O to process transactions and database queries than does a denormalized database. A normalized database must locate the requested tables and then join the data from the tables to either get the requested information or to process the desired data. A more in-depth discussion concerning database performance occurs in Hour 18, "Managing Database Users."

Denormalizing a Database

Denormalization is the process of taking a normalized database and modifying table structures to allow controlled redundancy for increased database performance. Attempting to improve performance is the only reason to ever denormalize a database. A denormalized database is not the same as a database that has not been normalized. Denormalizing a database is the process of taking the level of normalization within the database down a notch or two. Remember, normalization can actually slow performance with its frequently occurring table join operations. (Table joins are discussed during Hour 13, "Joining Tables in Queries.") Denormalization may involve recombining separate tables or creating duplicate data within tables to reduce the number of tables that need to be joined to retrieve the requested data, which results in less I/O and CPU time.

There are costs to denormalization, however. Data redundancy is increased in a denormalized database, which can improve performance but requires more extraneous efforts to keep track of related data. Application coding renders more complications, because the data has been spread across various tables and may be more difficult to locate. In addition, referential integrity is more of a chore; related data has been divided among a number of tables. There is a happy medium in both normalization and denormalization, but both require a thorough knowledge of the actual data and the specific business requirements of the pertinent company.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020