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Computing Specialist Produces Top Selling Database

19 May 2008

Computing Specialist Produces Top Selling Database Book

A Lincoln University computing lecturer is topping the sales charts with a new publication on the design of databases.

Dr Clare Churcher decided to write a book after teaching database design for eight years with books that were either too superficial or too abstract. After producing a short print run she took the book to American technical publishers Apress for wider distribution. Beginning Database Design: From Novice to Professional was released in January 2007 and is now one of the top selling database books at on-line retailer

Dr Churcher, who also teaches software design, programming and visualisation, says there are plenty of books available on database design but many have a very theoretical academic approach. Others are more concerned with implementing a database in a proprietary system such as Microsoft Access.

Dr Churcher says every business, from the owner-operator through to the biggest corporates, needs to have a reliable database, “but the quality of database design out there is extremely variable.”

“Nothing can be more frustrating than spending time and money gathering and storing data and then finding that the structure of the database prevents you from retrieving the information you require.”

“In the business sector there’s a perception that if young people can build web pages and use social networking sites then they’ll be able to take care of the company’s data automatically. But in reality that’s not the case.”
Beginning Database Design stresses the principles of design, so that database designers fully understand the nature of the problem to be solved. The rationale is to try to keep the design simple, but allow room for development as situations change or resources permit.

The book provides examples of how to avoid many common pitfalls and addresses examples from small and large businesses, research institutions, and social and community groups.

“Database design is not an exact science,” says Clare, “and solid database design principles and examples help demonstrate the consequences of simplifications and pragmatic decisions.”

Dr Churcher has recently published a follow-up book Beginning SQL Queries: From Novice to Professional. SQL (Structured Query Language) is common to all relational database products and allows users to extract all manner of complex information. “Getting data out of a database can appear quite simple at times. Getting accurate data is another story. Many of those complaints about ‘the computer getting it wrong’ can usually be traced to poor database design or poor querying skills,” says Clare.

The head of Lincoln University’s Environment, Society and Design Division, Dr Stefanie Rixecker, says Clare Churcher’s achievement shows the power of making an essential connection between theory and practice. “This is something we’re proud of within our division. It’s about remaining relevant in an ever-changing environment through design processes – whether it’s through landscape architecture, environmental management or computing, it’s the design processes which underpin our programmes and the capability of our graduates.”
About the Author

Clare Churcher holds a PhD in Physics and has designed databases for a wide variety of projects. Her teaching has included analysis and design, databases, and programming and she has supervised over 70 undergraduate projects designing databases. In 2006 Dr Churcher won a Lincoln University Excellence Award for Teaching.

About the Environment, Society and Design Division

The Environment, Society and Design Division provides expertise in Environmental Management and Environmental Design, Natural Resources and Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture; Tourism, Social Sciences, Māori and Indigenous Planning and Development, Recreation Management, Transport Studies and Software & Information Technology. It is made up of six groups: Applied Computing; Environmental Management (includes Transport Studies); Landscape Architecture; the Natural Resources Engineering Group; the Social Science, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Group; and Te Whanake. The Division also runs two research centres – the Isaac Centre for Nature Conservation, and the Land, Environment and People (LEaP) Research Centre.


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