Joins and aliases
OverviewTeaching: 30 min
Exercises: 30 minQuestions
Linking tables together and using shorthandObjectives
to understand how to link tables together
To combine data from two tables we use the SQL
JOIN command, which comes after
We also need to tell the computer which columns provide the link between the two
tables using the word
ON. What we want is to join the data with the same
SELECT * FROM articles JOIN journals ON articles.issns = journals.issns;
ON is like
WHERE, it filters things out according to a test condition. We use
table.colname format to tell the manager what column in which table we are
Alternatively, we can use the word
USING, as a short-hand. In this case we are
telling the manager that we want to combine
journals and that
the common column is
SELECT * FROM articles JOIN journals USING (issns);
We often won’t want all of the fields from both tables, so anywhere we would
have used a field name in a non-join query, we can use
For example, what if we wanted information on published articles in different journals, but instead of their ISSN we wanted the actual journal title.
SELECT articles.issns, journal_title, title, first_author, citation_count, author_count, month, year FROM articles JOIN journals ON articles.issns = journals.issns;
Joins can be combined with sorting, filtering, and aggregation. So, if we wanted average number of authors for articles on different journals, we could do something like
SELECT articles.issns, journal_title, ROUND(AVG(author_count), 2) FROM articles JOIN journals ON articles.issns = journals.issns; GROUP BY articles.issns;
Write a query that returns the journal title, total number of articles published and average number of citations for every journal.
It is worth mentioning that you can join multiple tables. For example:
SELECT title, first_author, journal_title, language FROM articles JOIN journals ON articles.issns = journals.issns JOIN languages ON languages.id = articles.languageid
Write a query that returns the journal title, publisher name, and number of articles published, ordered by number of articles in descending order.
As queries get more complex names can get long and unwieldy. To help make things clearer we can use aliases to assign new names to things in the query.
We can alias both table names:
SELECT ar.title, ar.first_author, jo.journal_title FROM articles AS ar JOIN journals AS jo ON ar.issns = jo.issns;
And column names:
SELECT ar.title AS title, ar.first_author AS author, jo.journal_title AS journal FROM articles AS ar JOIN journals AS jo ON ar.issns = jo.issns;
AS isn’t technically required, so you could do
SELECT a.title t FROM articles a;
AS is much clearer so it is good style to include it.
Extra Challenges (optional)
SQL queries help us ask specific questions which we want to answer about our data. The real skill with SQL is to know how to translate our scientific questions into a sensible SQL query (and subsequently visualize and interpret our results).
Have a look at the following questions; these questions are written in plain English. Can you translate them to SQL queries and give a suitable answer?
How many plots from each type are there?
SELECT first_author, COUNT( * ) AS n_articles FROM articles GROUP BY first_author ORDER BY n_articles DESC
How many papers have a single author? How many have 2 authors? How many 3? etc?
SELECT author_count, count( * ) FROM articles GROUP BY author_count
How many articles are published for each language? (Ignore articles where language is unknown).
SELECT language, count( * ) FROM articles JOIN languages ON articles.languageid=languages.id WHERE language IS NOT null GROUP BY language
How many articles are published for each licence type, and what is the average number of citations for that licence type
SELECT licence, avg( citation_count ), count( * ) FROM articles JOIN licences ON articles.licenceid=licences.id WHERE licence IS NOT null GROUP BY licence
Create a view with article, journal and publisher information
CREATE VIEW all_data AS SELECT title, first_author, author_count, citation_count, month, year, journal_title, publisher FROM articles JOIN journals ON articles.issns=journals.issns JOIN publishers ON publishers.id=journals.publisherid
SQL is ideal for linking tables