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  • A relational database is a collection of time-varying, normalized relations of assorted degrees.

  • The following intiutitve correspondence can be made:

    1. A relation is a file
    2. Each file contains only one record type
    3. The records have no particular order
    4. Every field is single-valued
    5. The records have a unique identifying field or composite field, called the primary key field.

  • A relational database consists of a collection of tables.
  • All data values are atomic. No repeating groups are allowed.
  • A relational database is a pointerless database, User does not see or is made aware of pointers.

    Relational Database Concepts

  • Relation
  • Tuple
  • Attribute
  • Cardinality
  • Degree
  • Primary key
  • Domain

    Equivalent Database Concepts

  • Relation <-> Table
  • Tuple <-> Row or record
  • Attribute <-> Column or field
  • Cardinality <-> Number of rows
  • Degree <-> Number of columns
  • Primary key <-> Unique identifier
  • Domain <-> Pool of legal values


  • A domain is a named set of scalar values, all of the same type.
    Example 1: Domain of P# is the set of character strings of length 6.
    Example 2: Domain of WEIGHT is the set of small integers less than 10,000.
    Example 3: Domain of QTY is the set of integers less than one billion.
  • Therefore, a "domain" is a "data type".


  • Domains (or data types) can be used to impose semantic constraints.
    Example 1:
    SELECT P.*, SP.*
    FROM P, SP
    WHERE P.P# = SP.P# ;
    The comparison in the conditional clause is sensible.

    Example 2:
    SELECT P.*, SP.*
    FROM P, SP
    The comparision involves two attributes of different types, and therefore should not be allowed.


  • A relation R on a collection of domains D1, D2, ..., Dn, consists of two parts: a "heading" and a "body".
  • The heading consists of a fixed set of attribute-domain pairs,
    { (A1:D1),(A2:D2), ... , (An,Dn) }
  • The heading is also called the schema.
  • The body consists of a time-varying set of tuples, where each tuple consists of a set of attribute-value pairs,
    { (A1:vi1), (A2:vi2),..., (An:vin) }
    and i = 1, 2, ..., m.
  • The body is also called the instance.


  • In the above, n is the degree of the relation and m is the cardinality of the relation.

  • A relation R can be considered as a variable.
  • The heading of a relation is the "type" of the variable R.
  • The type of R is (D1,D2,...,Dn).
  • The body of a relation is the "value" of the variable R.
  • The value of R is a subset of the Cartesian Product of D1, D2, ..., Dn.


  • The heading of R is (S#, SNAME, STATUS, CITY )
  • This is a shorthand notation for { (S#:S#), (SNAME:NAME), (STATUS:STATUS), (CITY,CITY) }
  • The body of R is a subset of the product of the underlying domains.
  • A typical tuple is an element of this product of domains.
    ( S1, Smith, 20, London )
  • This is a shorthand notation for { (S#: S1), (SNAME: SMith), (STATUS: 20), (CITY: London) }


  • Suppose the domain of S# is {1,2,3} and the domain of NAME is {Smith, Doe}
  • The Cartesian Product of the two domains is denoted by
    S# x NAME
  • The Cartesian Product is:
    {(1,Smith), (1, Doe), (2,Smith), (2,Doe), (3,Smith), (3, Doe) }
  • Later we will use the Cartesian Product to explain "equijoin" and "natural join".


  • P1: There are no duplicate tuples.
  • P2: Tuples are unordered.
  • P3: Attributes are unordered.
  • P4: All attribute values are atomic.

    *Notice the implementation of a relational database system often deviates from the above properties (which ones?).


  • Base relations: The real relations. Called "base table" in SQL.
  • Views: The virtual relations. A view is a named, derived relation.
  • Snapshots: A snapshot is a real, not virtual, named derived relation.
  • Query results: The final output relation from a specified query. It may not be named and has no permanent existence.
  • Temporary relations: A nonpermanent named derived relation.