Database Design Theory?

Tyler Strickland tyler at
Wed Nov 9 11:12:22 MST 2005

On 11/09/2005 08:20 AM, Ross Werner wrote:
> On Tue, 8 Nov 2005, Tyler Strickland wrote:
>> At no time was a specific database mentioned or a query actually 
>> performed. All was theory.  It was good theory, but when I actually 
>> wanted to start working with databases I found I didn't know much at 
>> all.  I could design a solid fourth-normal-form database, but beyond 
>> that I was pretty lost.
> That was the impression I was given of the BYU database classes. Now I 
> want to make explicit that I think this is *exactly* what BYU database 
> classes *should* be teaching. Theory theory theory. The mathematical 
> models. Ideas and concepts.
> However, I felt that the original poster was looking for something about 
> real-world design concepts and ideas, not the theory and math behind 
> databases. The latter may be helpful, of course, but I'm not sure *how* 
> helpful.

I'm glad that for the one BYU class I had, theory was the subject - from 
there it was easier to branch out to learning individual databases than 
it would have been to go the other way.  A few years ago I worked with a 
good friend of mine who learned his database design theory from playing 
with MySQL. He had a lot of _bad_ ideas about how to design a database 
that I had to correct as we went along.  I also had the experience of 
tutoring a friend of mine who was taking Arizona State's equivilant to 
ISYS 402.  Their class actually used a "database", if you consider MS 
Access a database.  Much of what they learned was Access specific.  I 
would personally rather not touch a database than use Access, but that's 
just my opinion.  Dave's explanation of CS 452's Oracle usage sounds 
much nicer :).

I think a second semester of database work, focused on practical 
application, would have been a good thing for us, but I'm not sure how 
the business department would have handled it.  If Conan Albrecht were 
to teach the class, it would have been sweet, as he's a Debian guy.  If 
Raymond Meservy, a Windows/Anti-Linux guy taught it, I shudder to 
imagine what the class would be like in his care, though I suppose as 
long as he stayed away from Access I'd be OK. (Can you tell I don't like 
Access?  Just in case you haven't caught on - I HATE Access.  I'd rather 
use a flat file. :) )

Dr. Hansen did well with what he taught, and I'm glad I learned what I 
did.  When I finished the class, I could design a decent database, and 
for the purpose of their program it was enough.  For my purposes and 
goals, practical applications would have been nice, but I really don't 
know how I would have fit another semester-long course into my schedule.  :)


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