Chapter 23. Ten Retrieval Tips

A database can be a virtual treasure trove of information, but like the treasure of the Caribbean pirates of long ago, the stuff that you really want is probably buried and hidden from view. The SQL SELECT statement is your tool for digging up this hidden information. Even if you have a clear idea of what you want to retrieve, translating that idea into SQL can be a challenge. If your formulation is just a little off, you may end up with the wrong results — but results that are so close to what you expected that they mislead you. To reduce your chances of being misled, use the following ten principles.

Verify the Database Structure

If you retrieve data from a database and your results don't seem reasonable, check the database design. Many poorly designed databases are in use, and if you're working with one, fix the design before you try any other remedy. Remember — good design is a prerequisite of data integrity.

Try Queries on a Test Database

Create a test database that has the same structure as your production database, but with only a few representative rows in the tables. Choose the data so that you know in advance what the results of your queries should be. Run each test query on the test data and see whether the results match your expectations. If they don't, you may need to reformulate your queries. If a query is properly formulated but you end up with bad results all the same, you may need to restructure your database.

Build several sets of test ...

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