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Basics of T-SQL Querying
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SQL Overview

SQL

  • SQL stands for “Structured English Query Language”.
  • Pronounced “ESS-KEW-EL” or colloquially “Sequel”.
  • Structured Query Language is used to interact, and communicate with databases.
    • SQL is easily “human-readable” compared to other popular programming languages.
    • Essentially, it’s mostly plain English.
  • SQL is the “open source” version; T-SQL (Transact-SQL) is the Microsoft variant. (T-SQL was created by Microsoft and Sybase).
    • Contains most of the open source functions but is expanded greatly.

SQL Server

  • In a nutshell, SQL Server is two things:
    1. 1.
      A physical or virtual server used to run and operate an instance of SQL Server.
    2. 2.
      The software SQL Server, is the instance used to parse and perform operations upon a set of databases.
  • It is possible to run more than one instance of SQL Server on a physical/virtual SQL Server.
    • For SME's, this is not recommended due to performance reasons.
    • Additionally you can run it along side other programs, again, this is not recommended due to performance impacts.

Databases

  • A database is a structured set of Data held on a computer that can be accessed in numerous ways.
  • In terms of SQL Server, this is a collection of views, schemas, logins, tables, queries and other objects.
  • In SQL Server, you can access nearly everything using T-SQL.
  • Most databases are relational.
  • Relational databases are made by using a set of tables containing data.
  • Data is mostly unique – to prevent you from storing the same data twice.
  • The data is linked together using a relationship.
  • Relational databases have a performance advantage, in terms of both size, and speed.

Tables

Overview

  • A location within a database to store information.
  • Properties:
    • Columns (vertical)
    • Rows (horizontal)
    • Cells (the intersection of those two)
  • A table stores a specific set of data in a specific way
  • An easy way to think of a table, is to think of an Excel spreadsheet

Example Table

Patient Ref
Title
Forename
MiddleInitial
Surname
DoB
NationalCode
HomePhone
MobileNumber
00001
Mr
Daniel
J
Stock
1990-07-16
111 111 1111
01233722707
07951505052
00002
Mr
Chris
P
Duck
1989-02-28
222 222 2222
01233722700
07942432953
00003
Miss
Laura
F
Hyde
1975-05-07
333 333 3333
01622016220
07036339498
00004
Dr
Not
A
Doctor
2001-05-12
444 444 4444
01234567890
07808207889
00005
Mrs
Amy
W
Hughes
1996-01-23
555 555 5555
01242628492
07980157371
00006
Mrs
Jasmine
Y
Sanders
1994-10-15
666 666 6666
01634199482
07700220441
00007
Mr
Jason
D
Frank
1979-03-16
777 777 7777
01458293725
07823760012

Primary & Foreign Keys

  • If multiple tables are being used, then they need to be linked (relationship)
  • There are two ways of linking tables:
    • Primary Keys
    • Foreign Keys
  • Primary Key:
    • Provides a unique reference for each record
    • Each individual table requires one
    • It acts as a reference point allowing tables to be interlinked
    • Can be comprised of a combination of columns (composite primary key)
  • Foreign Key:
    • A field or collection of keys within a table, that uniquely identifies a row in a different table
    • Essentially, it creates a relationship between tables

Primary & Foreign Keys - Example Table

In this example, ID is the primary key of the Staff table (left), with Staff No. being the primary key of the Staff Details table (right), and foreign key of the Staff table.
ID
Title
Forename
MiddleInitial
Surname
Staff No.
break
Staff No.
DoB
NationalCode
HomePhone
MobileNumber
1
Mr
Daniel
J
Stock
784
784
1990-07-16
111 111 1111
01233722707
07951505052
2
Mr
Chris
P
Duck
321
321
1989-02-28
222 222 2222
01233722700
07942432953
3
Miss
Laura
F
Hyde
141
141
1975-05-07
333 333 3333
01622016220
07036339498
4
Dr
Not
A
Doctor
123
123
2001-05-12
444 444 4444
01234567890
07808207889
5
Mrs
Amy
W
Hughes
50
50
1996-01-23
555 555 5555
01242628492
07980157371
6
Mrs
Jasmine
Y
Sanders
146
146
1994-10-15
666 666 6666
01634199482
07700220441
7
Mr
Jason
D
Frank
456
456
1979-03-16
777 777 7777
01458293725
07823760012

Constraints

  • SQL constraints are used to specify rules for the data in a table.
  • NOT NULL – Indicates a column that cannot store NULL value.
  • UNIQUE - Ensures that each row for a column must have a unique value.
  • PRIMARY KEY - A combination of a NOT NULL and UNIQUE. Ensures that a column (or combination of two or more columns) have a unique identity which helps to find a particular record in a table more easily and quickly.
  • FOREIGN KEY - Ensure the referential integrity of the data in one table to match values in another table.
  • CHECK - Ensures that the value in a column meets a specific condition.
  • DEFAULT - Specifies a default value when specified none for this column.

Common Datatypes

Columns within a table specify a type of data that is contained in each cell of that column.
Datatype
Description
VARCHAR(n)
A string of characters. n is the maximum length of the field – VARCHAR(50).
INTEGER /INT
Integer number. No decimal places.
DECIMAL (p,s)
Number with decimal places. p is precision (total length of number). s is scale (of p, how many decimal places).
DATE
I’d be stating the obvious.
TIME
“.
DATETIME
“. But has many different formats.
SMALLMONEY
Monetary value between -214,748.3648 and 214,748.3647
MONEY
(SMALLMONEY but bigger?) Monetary value between -922,337,203,685,477.5808 and 922,337,203,685,477.5807

Queries & Clauses

SELECT

  • A SELECT statement is used to select data from a database.
  • The result is stored in a table referred to as the “result set”.
  • It is good practice to type your clauses in uppercase.
1
SELECT
2
PatientRef,
3
Forename,
4
Surname,
5
DoB
6
FROM patient;
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  • However, as an alternative to specifying each and every column, we can use an asterisk to bring back all of the columns.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM patient;
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  • A SELECT statement must be made up of the following components:
    • The SELECT clause.
    • The column names you wish to select, or a wildcard.
    • The FROM clause to choose the location that you are selecting from. (If the FROM clause is not used, or does not have a specified table, the query will error.)

DISTINCT

The DISTINCT clause is used to select data without duplicate values. This should only be used when you wish to select DISTINCT data from one column.
1
SELECT DISTINCT Surname
2
FROM patient;
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WHERE

  • In order to select records from a table that only meet certain criteria – we can use the WHERE operator.
  • WHERE will limit or filter the results of a query.
  • The WHERE statement will always come after the FROM operator.
1
SELECT [column]
2
FROM [table]
3
WHERE [criteria];
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There are several operators that will change the functionality of the WHERE clause:
Operator
Meaning
Example
=
Equals
WHERE x = y
<
Less than
WHERE x < y
>
Greater than
WHERE x > y
<=
Less than or equal to
WHERE x <= y
>=
Greater than or equal to
WHERE x >= y
!=
Not equal to
WHERE x != y
<>
Not equal to
WHERE x <> y
BETWEEN
Between x and y
WHERE Date BETWEEN ‘01 Jan 20’ AND ‘31 JAN 20’

Further operators

  • IN - this can be used to specify one or more values to match: WHERE surname IN (‘Smith’, ‘Stock’, ‘Jones’);
  • VARCHAR – if using WHERE to match a varchar field (essentially free text), you will need to put your text to match in single quotes. By default, SSMS will turn these text inputs red: WHERE surname = Smith;

WHERE - Example Queries

Query 1: This query will return all columns from the patient table, where the surname is Smith. i.e. every patient who’s surname is Smith.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM patient
3
WHERE surname = ‘Smith’;
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Query 2: This query will return all columns from the case table, with a case number greater than or equal to 1337. Single quotes are not required for integer fields.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM case
3
WHERE caseno >= 1337;
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Logical Operators

  • To further customise the results of our chosen query, we can combine what is essentially multiple WHERE clauses with logical operators:
    • AND can be used when 2 (or more) WHEREs need to be met at the same time.
    • OR can be used when any 1 of 2 (or more) WHEREs can be met.
  • You can also combine these in many different and exciting ways to ensure that you only return the data you want.

Logical Operators - Example Queries

Query 1: This query will return the forename, surname and DoB for all patients who’s name is John Smith.
1
SELECT
2
forename,
3
surname,
4
DoB
5
FROM patient
6
WHERE forename = ‘John’
7
AND surname = ‘Smith’;
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Query 2: This query will return the forename, surname and DOB for all patients named Dan or Daniel.
1
SELECT
2
forename,
3
surname,
4
DoB
5
FROM patient
6
WHERE forename = ‘Dan’
7
OR forename = ‘Daniel’;
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TOP

To return only a certain number of records with a query, we can use the TOP operator to specify how many rows to return. TOP will return the first (x) records as specified.
1
SELECT TOP(25) *
2
FROM patient
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This query will return the first 25 patients from the patients table.

ORDER BY

  • By default, SQL decides how best to display the records returned. Usually this is an acceptable order for viewing the data.
  • If you wish to override this order, you can specify the order by utilising the ORDER BY clause.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM [table]
3
ORDER BY [column] ASC/DESC;
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  • To specify ascending or descending, use ASC or DESC appropriately.
  • If neither ASC or DESC are specified, SQL will assume ASC.

ORDER BY - Example Queries

Query 1: This query will select all columns from the log table, but only the top 200 rows, sorted by date descending (most recent first).
1
SELECT TOP(200) *
2
FROM log
3
ORDER BY Date DESC;
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Query 2: This query will select all rows from the case table ordered by their case number, in an ascending fashion.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM case
3
ORDER BY caseno ASC;
Copied!

Date & Date Ranges

  • When running a query with a WHERE clause, it is advisable to first filter by date (if possible!).
  • In most cases, date is normally indexed. This will cause the results to be returned faster, and will use less resources on the database server.
  • Filtering by date also reduces the quantity of records returned.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM patient
3
WHERE DoB >1993-03-20;
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This query will return all columns all patients with a DoB greater than March 20th 1993.

LIKE & Wildcards

  • A wildcard refers to a character that can be used to substitute for zero or more unknown characters.
  • Useful if you’re trying to find something, but you know only part of the value.
  • You can use more than one wildcard together for an exciting combination!
Symbol
Meaning
Example
%
Matches 0 or more characters.
‘Si%’ will find “Sign”, “Signal” etc
_
Matches 1 character.
‘Sig_’ will find “Sigh”, “Sign” etc.
[ ]
Matches any of the characters within the brackets.
‘H[ai]t’ will find “Hat”, “Hit” but not “Hot”.
^
Matches any of the characters not in the brackets.
‘H[^ai]t’ will find “Hot” but not “Hit” or “Hat”.
-
Matches a range of characters.
‘H[a-c]t’ will find “Hat”, “Hbt”, “Hct”.

LIKE & Wildcards - Example Queries

Query 1: This query will return the forename and the surname for any patient whose surname begins with Smith. This would include results such as ‘Smith’, ‘Smithson’, ‘Smithenberry’ etc.
1
SELECT
2
forename,
3
surname
4
FROM patient
5
WHERE surname LIKE ‘Smith%;
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Query 2: If we substitute ‘Smith%’ for ‘%smith’ this would bring back patients with a surname that ends in smith. This would include results such as ‘Goldsmith’, ‘Blacksmith’ etc.
1
SELECT
2
forename,
3
surname
4
FROM patient
5
WHERE surname LIKE%smith’;
Copied!

Joins & Unions

Joins

  • A JOIN allows you to select data from multiple tables using a link (Primary and Foreign Keys).
  • There are four types of JOIN, each with a different function. LEFT JOIN and RIGHT JOIN can return NULL.
Join Diagram
  • Standard SQL syntax applies, meaning you can apply other clauses (such as WHERE) when needed.

Joins - Example Joins

Example of an INNER JOIN. This combines columns from 1 or more tables, which can be saved as a table or used in result form.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM [case]
3
INNER JOIN [patient] ON [case].[patientref] = [patient].[patientref];
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Example of a LEFT JOIN. This will return all rows from the left table, with the matching rows from the right table – provided there is a match. If there is no match, NULL will be returned for the right table.
1
SELECT *
2
FROM [case]
3
LEFT JOIN [patient] ON [case].[patientref] = [patient].[patientref];
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When using a JOIN, if you wish to select a specific column, you will need to specify the table name as well.
1
SELECT [table1].[columname],[table2].[columnname]
2
FROM [table1]
3
INNER JOIN [table2] ON [table1].[columnname] = [table2].[columnname];
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Unions

Union Diagram
  • A UNION will combine the results from multiple tables, removing any duplicate rows.
  • Useful if you want to see all the data from multiple tables in one result set.
  • Unions are resource intensive so should be avoided wherever possible.
  • The columns in the tables must match exactly for a union to work (same number of columns, same datatypes).
  • Joins are horizontal, but Unions are vertical.
  • You can force display duplicate rows by using UNION ALL.

Unions - Example Union

1
SELECT
2
country,
3
region,
4
Id
5
FROM EU.Nationals
6
UNION
7
SELECT
8
country,
9
region,
10
Id
11
FROM UK.Nationals;
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Country
Region
Id
UK
West Midlands
I5789178Z
Germany
Hessen
Y8917234X
France
Rhone-Alpes
T9128370Q
UK
Anglia
I9328401P

Transactions

Transactions - Overview

Transactions - Usage

  • In MSSQL, transactions are opened with BEGIN TRAN.
  • To close a transaction and save the changes, type COMMIT or COMMIT TRAN.
  • To close a transaction and discard the changes, type ROLLBACK or ROLLBACK TRAN.
  • An open transaction (e.g. using BEGIN TRAN and then not following it with COMMIT or ROLLBACK) will lock the table(s) being operated upon and prevent all writing until the transaction is committed or rolled back.
    • Open transactions are to be avoided at all costs.
  • When finished, if you are unsure if a transaction is still open, you can run PRINT @@TRANCOUNT – if the number is not 0, then there is an open transaction.
  • If updating the database, you must ALWAYS use a transaction.

Update

Update - Overview

The UPDATE command updates fields in the database.
Unless you fully understand the UPDATE command and it’s consequences, do not use it. If issuing an UPDATE command, you must use a transaction. Partially to protect yourself, partially for data integrity. Before issuing an UPDATE command, have someone sanity-check your work.

Update - Example

Example of an UPDATE statement:
1
UPDATE [staff]
2
SET Surname = 'Smith'
3
WHERE Surname = 'Smit';
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This will update the surname column in the staff table, where the surname is spelt incorrectly.

Update - Components

UPDATE Statements are made up of several component parts:
  1. 1.
    The table you’re updating: UPDATE [Staff]
  2. 2.
    The column name, and the new value to set: SET Surname = 'Smith'
  3. 3.
    Criteria to determine which columns to change" WHERE Surname = 'Smit'

Update - Process

It is good practice to run a SELECT statement before writing the UPDATE to ensure you know what will be changed
1
SELECT *
2
FROM [staff]
3
WHERE Surname = 'Smit';
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Perform the UPDATE inside a transaction
1
BEGIN TRAN
2
UPDATE [staff]
3
SET Surname = 'Smith'
4
WHERE Surname = 'Smit';
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Check the change with another SELECT statement
1
SELECT *
2
FROM [staff]
3
WHERE Surname = 'Smit';
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If you are happy save your change, or undo
1
COMMIT / ROLLBACK;
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Useful Stuff

Commands & Tricks

  • COUNT() - returns the number of rows that matches a specified criteria.
  • SUM() - returns the total sum of a numeric column.
  • MAX() and MIN() - returns the largest/smallest value of the selected column.
  • GROUP BY and HAVING – groups the result-set by one or more columns.
  • UCASE and LCASE - converts the value of a field to uppercase/lowercase.
  • LEN() - returns the length of the value in a text field.
  • ROUND() - used to round a numeric field to the specified number of decimals.
Copy with Headers:
  • On the result screen for a query – right click the top left corner and select ‘Copy with Headers’.
  • This allows you to copy the table (with column names!) for use in a program like Excel.

Date Functions

The most difficult part when working with dates is to be sure that the format of the date you are trying to insert, matches the format of the date column in the database. SQL can interpret dates in different formats, and will for the most part figure out what you mean when using a SELECT statement. INSERT / UPDATE is trickier.
Command
Result
Example
GETDATE()
Returns the date in this format:
YYYY-MM-DD- HH:MM:SS.MSS
DATEDIFF()
Returns the number of days between two dates.
DATEDIFF(datepart, startdate, enddate)
DATEPART()
Returns a single part of a date/time. Accepts abbreviations.
DATEPART(datepart, date)
DATEADD()
Adds or subtracts a specified time interval from a date.
DATEADD(datepart, number, date)

NULL

NULL does not mean blank (‘’ or ‘ ‘), NULL means empty. Nothing. Zilch. Squat. NULL is commonly used in other places than SQL, but mostly with the same purpose. In Linux if you pipe to /dev/null, you have sent that information to the void. PowerShell has a $NULL variable, you can use this to compare against other values.
ISNULL vs NULL NULL will only return data where the column you specify is actually NULL. ISNULL will return data where the column you specify is blank or actually NULL. IS NOT NULL will return data where the column is not NULL.

Exercises

  • This demonstration has three exercises, consisting of multiple parts.
  • For data, we’ll be using the Microsoft AdventureWorks database; Specifically the HumanResources.Employee Table (for funsies).

Exercise 1

Using the AdventureWorks DB, HumanResources.Employee Table
  1. 1.
    Show only the DISTINCT data from the OrganizationLevel column.
  2. 2.
    Show all Research and Development Managers.
  3. 3.
    Show all Senior Tool Designers or Senior Design Engineers.
  4. 4.
    How many Female, Tool Designers are there?
  5. 5.
    Without saving, update the Job Title of the staff member who’s BusinessEntityID is 110.
  6. 6.
    Undo this change.

Exercise 2

Using the AdventureWorks DB, HumanResources.Employee Table
  1. 1.
    Show all staff who are Male and Single.
  2. 2.
    How many staff members does the organisation have?
  3. 3.
    Manager X wants a report, but doesn’t need all of the table information. Show only the JobTitle, MaritalStatus, Gender and VacationHours of all staff.
  4. 4.
    Manager X now wants to see all Married, Female staff members have their VacationHours reduced to 15.
  5. 5.
    This is seriously wrong, so undo that change.

Exercise 3

Using the AdventureWorks DB, HumanResources.Employee Table
  1. 1.
    Show all staff members where their Hiredate is between 2005-01-01 and 2008-12-30.
  2. 2.
    How many staff members is this?
  3. 3.
    Some of these staff have already left. We’re firing the rest. Set their SalariedFlag to 0, and save the change.

Wrap Up

IDEs

If you do not use Management Studio in your role but another software to write your queries, you can use Notepad++ to help write your queries beforehand. N++ will allow you to save and edit .SQL files. Visual Studio Code is a good, all-round code editor (made by Microsoft), and will natively handle .SQL files and queries, and offer suggestions to correct mistakes and formatting issues. There is an extension that will allow you to query a database. For the Mac users, SSMS doesn’t exist but you can use TablePlus (is very good, and free to a point). JetBrains DataGrip - £69.00, but is cross platform and has some neat features.

SQL Server Stuff

There are 2 free versions of SQL server:
  • SQL Express (limited database size (10GB), and functionality but you can use it for whatever you want).
  • SQL Developer Edition (fully featured and free – provided that you do not use it for a production environment).
You can also download free databases to play with:
  • Microsoft has AdventureWorks.
  • Stack Overflow has a copy of their forums (varying in size – 10GB, 50GB or 180GB).
*This is actually a legitimate use of P2P transfers, as you’re not pirating anything.

Additional Training Materials

Query Tips

  • When writing longer queries, it is easier to break the query onto multiple lines, as in the example above. This makes it easier to spot errors, and provides a visual break.
  • Some SQL tools will perform a sanity check on your query, and notify you of some types of error.
  • SQL is very literal, and will perform exactly as asked – if there is a typo in your query, it could error or have unintended consequences.

Course Links