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Tip of the Day
Language: SQL Server
Expertise: Beginner
Apr 21, 1997

What is normalization?

Question:
Will you please help me in locating a definition of the term "normalized database"?

Answer:
Normalization of relational databases is the process of ensuring that the database does not contain redundant information.

A simple example is the case of a customer, whose name and address should appear in only one table because its appearance elsewhere could easily become contradictory. However, normalization is much more complex than just setting up a good customer table. The normal forms of the relational model provide a set of rules that allow you to stringently test your database design.

Normalization for relational databases was introduced by Dr. E. F. Codd back in 1970 when he wrote his original paper. The concept has since been expounded upon by other experts in the field. Normalized databases are said to be in first normal form (1nf), second normal form (2nf), third normal form (3nf), and so on. (There are a few that don't follow that naming convention.) Most databases are in third normal form after they have been normalized.

The details of how to normalize a database are beyond the scope of this format. There are a number of CASE tools on the market to help automate the process, and several books cover the topic in varying degrees of detail.

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