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Entity relationship modelling is simple enough in theory, but many situations will arise that need careful thought. There are also a couple of common error situations that you need to be aware of. They arise quite often because they are not immediately obvious.

Fan traps

A fan trap occurs when a model represents a relationship between entity types, but the pathway between certain entity occurrences is ambiguous. It occurs when 1:* relationships fan out from a single entity.

Fan trap

A single site contains many departments and employs many staff. However, which staff work in a particular department?

The fan trap is resolved by restructuring the original ER model to represent the correct association.

Fan trap solution

Chasm traps

A chasm trap occurs when a model suggests the existence of a relationship between entity types, but the pathway does not exist between certain entity occurrences.

It occurs where there is a relationship with partial participation, which forms part of the pathway between entities that are related.

Chasm trap

  • A single branch is allocated many staff who oversee the management of properties for rent. Not all staff oversee property and not all property is managed by a member of staff.
  • What properties are available at a branch?
  • The partial participation of STAFF and PROPERTY in the oversees relation means that some properties cannot be associated with a branch office through a member of staff.
  • We need to add the missing relationship which is called has between the BRANCH and the PROPERTY entities.
  • NB. You need to be careful when you remove relationships which you consider to be redundant.

Chasm trap solution