The Entity Relationship Model

Complex design activities require conceptual simplicity to yield successful results. Although the relational model was a vast improvement over the hierarchical and network models, it still lacked the features that would make it an effective database design tool. Because it is easier to examine structures graphically than to describe them in text, database designers prefer to use a graphical tool in which entities and their relationships are pictured. Thus, the entity relationship (ER) model, or ERM, has become a widely accepted standard for data modeling

Peter Chen first introduced the ER data model in 1976; it was the graphical representation of entities and their relationships in a database structure that quickly became popular because it complemented the relational data model concepts. The relational data model and ERM combined to provide the foundation for tightly structured database design. ER models are normally represented in an entity relationship diagram (ERD), which uses graphical representations to model database components.

The ER model is based on the following components:

Entity. Earlier in this chapter, an entity was defined as anything about which data are to be collected and stored. An entity is represented in the ERD by a rectangle, also known as an entity box. The name of the entity, a noun, is written in the center of the rectangle. The entity name is generally written in capital letters and is written in the singular form: PAINTER rather than PAINTERS, and EMPLOYEE rather than EMPLOYEES. Usually, when applying the ERD to the relational model, an entity is mapped to a relational table. Each row in the relational table is known as an entity instance or entity occurrence in the ER model.

Relationships. Relationships describe associations among data. Most relationships describe associations between two entities. When the basic data model components were introduced, three types of relationships among data were illustrated: one-to-many (1:M), many-to-many (M:N), and one-to-one (1:1). The ER model uses the term connectivity to label the relationship types. The name of the relationship is usually an active or passive verb. For example, a PAINTER paints many PAINTINGs; an EMPLOYEE learns many SKILLs; an EMPLOYEE manages a STORE

The Chen and Crow’s Foot notations
The Chen and Crow’s Foot notations

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