Integrity-Related Terms

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Field Specification

A field specification (traditionally known as a domain) represents all the elements of a field. Each field specification incorporates three types of elements: general, physical, and logical.

  • General elements constitute the most fundamental information about the field and include items such as Field Name, Description, and Parent Table.

  • Physical elements determine how a field is built and how it is represented to the person using it. This category includes items such as Data Type, Length, and Display Format.

  • Logical elements describe the values stored in a field and include items such as Required Value, Range of Values, and Default Value.

You'll learn all of the elements associated with a field specification, including those mentioned here, in Chapter 9.

Data Integrity

Data integrity refers to the validity, consistency, and accuracy of the data in a database. I cannot overstate the fact that the level of accuracy of the information you retrieve from the database is in direct proportion to the level of data integrity you impose upon the database. Data integrity is one of the most important aspects of the database-design process, and you cannot underestimate, overlook, or even partially neglect it. To do so would put you at risk of being plagued by errors that are very hard to detect or identify. As a result, you would be making important decisions on information that is inaccurate at best, or totally invalid at worst.

There are four types of data integrity that you'll implement during the database-design process. Three types of data integrity are based on various aspects of the database structure and are labeled according to the area (level) in which they operate. The fourth type of data integrity is based on the way an organization perceives and uses its data. The following is a brief description of each:

  1. Table-level integrity (traditionally known as entity integrity) ensures that there are no duplicate records within the table and that the field that identifies each record within the table is unique and never null.

  2. Field-level integrity (traditionally known as domain integrity) ensures that the structure of every field is sound; that the values in each field are valid, consistent, and accurate; and that fields of the same type (such as CITY fields) are consistently defined throughout the database.

  3. Relationship-level integrity (traditionally known as referential integrity) ensures that the relationship between a pair of tables is sound and that the records in the tables are synchronized whenever data is entered into, updated in, or deleted from either table.

  4. Business rules impose restrictions or limitations on certain aspects of a database based on the ways an organization perceives and uses its data. These restrictions can affect aspects of database design, such as the range and types of values stored in a field, the type of participation and the degree of participation of each table within a relationship, and the type of synchronization used for relationship-level integrity in certain relationships. All of these restrictions are discussed in more detail in Chapter 11. Because business rules affect integrity, they must be considered along with the other three types of data integrity during the design process.


Part II: The Design Process