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E-R modeling from the problem statements



After completing this experiment you will be able to:


  • Identify entity sets, their attributes, and various relationships
  • Represent the data model through ER diagram


Time Required


Around 3.00 hours


Entity Relationship Model


Entity-Relationship mode is used to represent a logical design of the database. In ER model, real world objects (or concepts) are abstracted as entities, and possible associations among them are modeled as relationships.


For example, student and school -- they are two entities. Students study in school. So, these two entities are associated with a relationship "Studies in".


As another example, consider a system where some job runs every night, which updates the database. Here, job and database could be two entities. They are associated with the relationship "Updates".


Entity Set and Relationship Set


An entity set is a set of similar entites. For example, a Student is an entity set that abstracts all students. Ram, John are specific entities belonging to this set. Similarly, a relationship set is a set of similar relationships.


Attributes of Entity


Attributes are the characteristics describing any entity belonging to an entity set. Any entity in a set can be described by zero or more attributes.


For example, any student has got a name, age, an address. At any given time a student can study only at one school. In the school he would have a roll number, and of course a grade in which he studies. These data are the attributes of the entity set student.




One or more attribute(s) of an entity set can be used to define the following keys:


  • Super key: One or more attributes, which when taken together helps to uniquely identify an entity in an entity set. For example, a school can have any number of students. However, if we know grade and roll number, then we can uniquely identify a student in that school.
  • Candidate key: It is any superset of the candidate key.
  • Primary key: A superkey chosen (from a list of possible superkeys) for a particular implementation of the databse.
  •  Prime attribute: Any attribute taking part in a super key


Weak Entity


An entity is said to be weak if it is dependent upon another entity. A weak entity can't be uniquely identified only by it's attributes. In other words, it doesn't have a superkey.


For example, consider a company that allows employees to have insurance for their spouses. So, here we have two entity sets: employee and spouse, related by "can insure". However, spouse doesn't have a super key. So, it is meaningful only with reference to employee.
Entity Generalization & Specialization


Once we have identified the entity sets, we might find some similarities among them. For example, multiple person interacts with a banking system. Most of them are customers, and rest employees. Here, customers, employees are persons, but with certain specializations. Or in other way, person is the generalized form of customer and employee entity sets.


ER model uses the "ISA" hierarchy to depict specialization (and thus, generalization).


Mapping Cardinalities


One of the main tasks of ER modeling is to associate different entity sets. Let's consider two entity sets E1 and E2 associated by a relationship set R. Based on the number of entities in E1 and E2 are associated with, we can have the folowing four type of mapping cardinalities:


  • One to one: An entity in E1 is related to at most one entity in E2, and vice versa
  • One to many: An entity in E1 could be related to zero or more entites in E2. Any entity in E2 could be related to atmost a single entity in E1.
  • Many to one: Zero or more number of entites in E1 could be associated to a single entity in E2. However, an entity in E2 could be related to at most one entity in E1.
  • Many to many: Any number of entities could be related to any number of entities in E2, including zero, and vice versa.


ER Diagram


From a given problem statement we identify the possible entity sets, their attributes, and relationships among different entity sets. Once we have these information, we represent them pictorially, called an entity-relationship diagram.


Graphical Notations for ER Diagram


Entity set Entity  
Attribute Attribute  
Entity with attributes Entity with attributes Roll is the primary key
Weak entity set Weak entity  
Relationship set Relationship  
Related enity sets Entity relationship  
Relationship cardinality Relationship cardinality A person can own zero or more cars but no two persons can own the same car
Relationship with weak entity set Weak entity relationship  


Importance of ER modeling


Figure - 01 shows the different steps involved in implementation of a (relational) database.


Figure - 01: Steps to implement a RDBMS


Given a problem statement, the first step is to identify the entities, attributes and relationships. We represent them using an ER diagram. Using this ER diagram, table structures are created, along with required constraints. Finally, these tables are normalized in order to remove redundancy and maintain data integrity. Thus, to have data stored efficiently, the ER diagram must be drawn as much detailed and accurate as possible.


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