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entity-relationship diagram (model)

An entity relationship model, also called an entity-relationship (ER) diagram, is a graphical representation of entities and their relationships to each other, typically used in computing in regard to the organization of data within databases or information systems. An entity is a piece of data-an object or concept about which data is stored.

Relationships Between Entities

A relationship is how the data is shared between entities. There are three types of relationships between entities:

1. One-to-One

One instance of an entity (A) is associated with one other instance of another entity (B). For example, in a database of employees, each employee name (A) is associated with only one social security number (B).

One-to-one entity relationship diagram

2. One-to-Many

One instance of an entity (A) is associated with zero, one or many instances of another entity (B), but for one instance of entity B there is only one instance of entity A. For example, for a company with all employees working in one building, the building name (A) is associated with many different employees (B), but those employees all share the same singular association with entity A.

one to many entity relationship diagram

3. Many-to-Many

One instance of an entity (A) is associated with one, zero or many instances of another entity (B), and one instance of entity B is associated with one, zero or many instances of entity A. For example, for a company in which all of its employees work on multiple projects, each instance of an employee (A) is associated with many instances of a project (B), and at the same time, each instance of a project (B) has multiple employees (A) associated with it.

many to many entity relationship diagram

ER Diagram Symbols

In an ER diagram, symbols are commonly used to to represent the types of information. Most diagrams will use the following:

  • Boxes represent entities.
  • Diamonds represent relationships
  • Circles (ovals) represent attributes.

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