UML Class Diagram or Entity Relationship Diagram: An Object Relational Impedance Mismatch

Bernadette Byrne, Yasser Shahzad Qureshi

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It is now nearly 30 years since Peter Chen’s watershed paper “The Entity-Relationship Model –towards a Unified View of Data”. [1] The entity relationship model and variations and extensions to ithave been taught in colleges and universities for many years. In his original paper Peter Chen looked
at converting his new ER model to the then existing data structure diagrams for the Network model. In recent years there has been a tendency to use a Unified Modelling Language (UML) class diagram forconceptual modeling for relational databases, and several popular course text books use UMLnotation to some degree [2] [3].
However Object and Relational technology are based on different paradigms. In the paper we argue that the UML class diagram is more of a logical model (implementation specific). ER Diagrams on theother hand, are at a conceptual level of database design dealing with the main items and their relationships and not with implementation specific detail. UML focuses on OOAD (Object Oriented
Analysis and Design) and is navigational and program dependent whereas the relational model is set based and exhibits data independence. The ER model provides a well-established set of mapping rules for mapping to a relational model.
In this paper we look specifically at the areas which can cause problems for the novice databasedesigner due to this conceptual mismatch of two different paradigms. Firstly, transferring the mapping of a weak entity from an Entity Relationship model to UML and secondly the representation of structural constraints between objects. We look at the mixture of notations which students mistakenly use when modeling. This is often the result of different notations being used on different courses throughout their degree. Several of the popular text books at the moment use either a variation of ER,UML, or both for teaching database modeling. At the moment if a student picks up a text book they could be faced with either; one of the many ER variations, UML, UML and a variation of ER both covered separately, or UML and ER merged together. We regard this problem as a conceptual impedance mismatch. This problem is documented in [21] who have produced a catalogue of impedance mismatch problems between object-relational and relational paradigms. We regard the problems of using UML class diagrams for relational database design as a conceptual impedance mismatch as the Entity Relationship model does not have the structures in the model to deal with Object Oriented concepts Keywords: EERD, UML Class Diagram, Relational Database Design, Structural Constraints, relational and object database impedance mismatch.
The ER model was originally put forward by Chen [1] and subsequently extensions have been added to add further semantics to the original model; mainly the concepts of specialisation, generalisation and aggregation. In this paper we refer to an Entity-Relationship model (ER) as the basic model and an extended or enhanced entity-relationship model (EER) as a model which includes the extra concepts. The ER and EER models are also often used to aid communication between the designer and the user at the requirements analysis stage. In this paper when we use the term “conceptual model” we mean a model that is not implementation specific.ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProcs of 6th Int Conf of Education, Research, and Innovation
PublisherInternational Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED)
ISBN (Print)978-84-616-3847-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event6th Int Conf of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2013) - Seville, Spain
Duration: 18 Nov 201320 Nov 2013


Conference6th Int Conf of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2013)


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