ARCHIVE / What is data normalization?

Data normalization, otherwise known as database normalization or canonical synthesis, is a means of preventing inconsistencies in a set of data by using unique values to reference common information.  For example, suppose you coach multiple school sports teams and have rosters of team players by name in a database.  If the name of one of your players changes and that player plays on more than one team, there is a chance that you might change the name of the player on one roster but not on another.  This would be an example of data inconsistency.  Data normalization prevents this problem by requiring a unique value, such as a player ID number, to reference common information, such as a list of players by ID number with a separate column for names.  In this manner, determining the list of player names for a given team in our example requires joining a list of team player IDs with the list of player names on the basis of ID number.  If a player's name should then change, only a single change to the list of players is required to effectively update the name of the player for multiple team rosters.

last updated 2008.03.12

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