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Database Design: Existing Models Criticism

Paper Summary

Chen, P. (1976). The entity-relationship model – Toward a unified view of data. ACM Transactions on Database Systems,1(1), 9-36.
Purpose (What are the objectives for writing the paper?):

The author undertakes a critical review of the previously proposed models of data management and proposes an inclusive framework to unite them in new database design.

Design / Methodology / Approach (How are the objectives achieved? Include the main methods used for the research and the approach to the topic.):
  • The study is designed to combine elements of critique with exploratory work.
  • No methodological procedures were discussed in the paper.
  • The paper is organized into three parts. In the first one, Chen (1976) introduces a new model that covers multiple views on data.
  • The core objective of the second chapter is to present a tool for designing databases.
  • The goal of the third chapter was to evaluate and critique the existing models of database organization and demonstrate their integration into the new framework.
  • The author achieves these aims by using logic, critical thinking, mathematical calculations, and case study elements.
Main Points / Findings / Conclusions (What are the main points? What was found in the course of the work, and what are the major conclusions? This will refer to analysis, discussion, or results.):
  • The critical achievement of the author’s work is the successful unification of three models in the sphere of database design that have been previously discussed by academics.
  • The paper details the main steps of database organization such as the definition of entity and relationship sets, semantic information within those sets, the definition of value sets and attributes, and data organization within the framework of entity/relationship and primary key definition.
  • The work identifies three major constraints of data integrity: allowable values, permitted values, and existing values.
  • Chen (1976) argues that relational operators can become sources of ambiguity due to domains having different semantics in various relations, which is addressed by the entity-relationship model.
  • In his work, the author establishes that the network model has a significant flaw that consists of its poor processing of semantic changes, an issue that is also addressed by an entity-relationship framework through the introduction of related records.
  • The author does not make an apparent conclusion besides the fact that the newly proposed entity-relationship model may serve as a platform to unite three existing frameworks.
Implications to Practice and Knowledge (What outcomes and implications for practice and knowledge as well as applications and consequences are identified?):

The core practical implication of this academic paper is that the new model appears to solve data integrity problems and presents a logical multi-sided view of data. In terms of theoretical value, it identifies critical flaws in the entity, relational, and network data organization frameworks, and suggests ways to eliminate them. Besides, Chen (1976) produced a tool that can assist developers in using his model to create practical and efficient databases.

Critique (Which parts of the paper you like, and which parts of the paper you don’t like? Why?):

The major drawback of the article is its lack of adequate self-evaluation. It seems to be a proper
academic practice to critically approach one’s innovations and offer insight into potential issues. In this case, the author presents little information on such problems. Also, the conclusion seems to be absent; this is atypical for scholarly papers and presents certain constraints on adequate comprehension. The quality of narration flow is further undermined by the abrupt paragraph endings and scarce transitions from topic to topic.

On the other hand, the author might be credited generously for his breadth of view and attempted systematization of existing knowledge. The abundance of illustrative material assists the reader’s understanding of key points and positively affects the presentation of data. Chen (1976) demonstrated that his research is properly grounded in the scientific works of his colleagues, which contributes to cohesiveness and development in this sphere of knowledge. Considering the complicated nature of the topic, the author could also be complimented for using no complex grammar and syntax structures and assisting readers in comprehending his work. Overall, the author provided a proper scientific paper that—though not without issues—nonetheless contributes significantly to the development of data science and database design.


Chen, P. (1976). The entity-relationship model – Toward a unified view of data. ACM Transactions on Database Systems, 1(1), 9-36.

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