Relational Databases

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CHAPTER 4

RELATIONAL DATABASES

SUGGESTED ANSWERS TO DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

4.1Contrast the logical and the physical view of data and discuss why separate views are necessary in database applications. Describe which perspective is most useful for each of the following employees: a programmer, a manager, and an internal auditor. How will understanding logical data structures assist you when designing and using database systems?</para></question><question id="ch04ques02" label="4.2">

Databases are possible because of their database management system (DBMS). As shown in Figure 4.2, the DBMS is a software program that sits between the actual data stored in the system and the application programs that use the data. As shown in Figure 4.4, this allows users to separate the way they view the data (called the logical view) from the way the data is actually stored (the physical view). The DBMS interprets the users' requests and retrieves, manipulates, or stores the data as needed. The two distinct views separate the applications from the physical information, providing increased flexibility in applications, improved data security, and ease of use.

In a database system, the manager will rarely need to understand or be familiar with the physical view of the data. Nor, in most instances, will the internal auditor and the programmer as most everything they do involves the logical view of the data.

If accountants understand logical data structures and the logical view of the data, they are better able to manage, use, and audit a database and its data.

4.2The relational data model represents data as being stored in tables. Spreadsheets are another tool that accountants use to employ a tabular representation of data. What are some similarities and differences in the way these tools use tables? How might an accountant’s familiarity with the tabular representation of spreadsheets facilitate or hinder learning how to use a relational DBMS?

A major difference between spreadsheets and databases is that spreadsheets are designed primarily to handle numeric data, whereas databases can handle both text and numbers. Consequently, the query and sorting capabilities of spreadsheets are much more limited than what can be accomplished with a DBMS that has a good query language.

Accountants’ familiarity with spreadsheets might hinder their ability to design and use relational DBMS because many links in spreadsheets are preprogrammed and designed in, whereas a well-designed relational database is designed to facilitate ad-hoc queries.

Accountants’ familiarity with spreadsheets sometimes leads them to use a spreadsheet for a task that a database could handle much better. Over the years, the Journal of Accountancy has published a number of very good articles on how to use databases and when to use databases and when to use spreadsheets. These articles can be found on the Journal’s website: http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/

4.3Some people believe database technology may eliminate the need for double-entry accounting. This creates three possibilities: (1) the double-entry model will be abandoned; (2) the double-entry model will not be used directly, but an external-level schema based on the double-entry model will be defined for accountants’ use; or (3) the double-entry model will be retained in database systems. Which alternative do you think is most likely to occur? Why?

There is no correct answer to this question because it is asking the student to express his opinion on what will happen in the future. Therefore, the quality of his answer depends on the justifications provided. Good answers should address the following:

* Database technology...
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