Comparing Top-down with Bottom-up Approaches: Teaching Data Modeling

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Information Systems Education Journal


Conceptual database design is a difficult task for novice database designers, such as students, and is also therefore particularly challenging for database educators to teach. In the teaching of database design, two general approaches are frequently emphasized: top-down and bottom-up. In this paper, we present an empirical comparison of students’ performance between these two approaches in a conceptual data modeling exercise. Our results indicate that, while prior database education had a significant effect on the quality of design performance, the chosen approach did not. Such findings appear to contradict the widely accepted view that the top-down approach is superior to the bottom-up approach.