SQL is a longstanding database querying language. It is a loosely-implemented standard. We will be using MySQL.

To facilitate our connection to the MySQL database server, we will need to install the RMySQL package.

# do NOT install RMySQL if you are on the RStudio Server
install.packages("RMySQL")

Goal: by the end of this lab, you will be able to write basic SELECT queries in SQL and retrieve the results into R.

## Connecting to MySQL

The data we will be using is stored on a server in Bass Hall. It’s called scidb.smith.edu. We can connect through the dbConnect() function provided by the DBI package (which is loaded automatically when you load RMySQL). You will also need the RMySQL package installed.

library(tidyverse)
library(RMySQL)
db <- dbConnect(
MySQL(),
host = "scidb.smith.edu",
user = "sds192",
dbname = "imdb"
)
knitr::opts_chunk\$set(connection = db, max.print = 20)

This chunk of code will allow you to connect to scidb. Note that this creates a database connection object named db, which has the class MySQLConnection.

class(db)

Also, we set the connection parameter for all future chunks in this R Markdown file. Note also that the max.print argument sets the maximum number of results printed by each query.

Each of the following chunks makes use of the SQL engine functionality in knitr. You may want to read about this. Each of the following chunks is an sql chunk – as opposed to an r chunk!

## Retrieving data

To retrieve the results from a query in R, use the dbGetQuery() function from the DBI package (which is automatically loaded when you load RMySQL). Its first argument is a database connection object, and the second argument is an SQL query as a character vector.

This query returns the list of kinds of “movies” stored in the IMDB.

SELECT * FROM kind_type;

Of course, you will often want to store the result of your query as a data frame. This can be achieved by setting the output.var argument in the chunk. Here we retrieve the list of different types of information stored in the database, save it as a data frame in R, and show the first few rows.

-- output.var="info_types" in this chunk
SELECT * FROM info_type;

We now have a data.frame called info_types in our environment.

head(info_types)

That’s all you need to know about how to get data from MySQL into R. The rest of this lab consists of practicing writing SQL queries. It may be useful to reference the full documentation for SELECT queries.

Tip: Practice writing the SQL in the MySQL Workbench first. Once you’ve got the query you want, then copy-and-paste it back into your R Markdown file.

For example, let’s say we wanted to find Ben’s favorite movie, which is (obviously) The Empire Strikes Back.

The titles are stored in the title field (i.e. column) in the title table. [Note: your professors are not responsible for naming these tables and fields!] Each row in the title table corresponds to a single movie, but of course, we need to restrict the rows we retrieve to only those where the title field equals The Empire Strikes Back. The following query achieves this.

Note: SQL does not require the == for testing equality, since you aren’t ever changing the data.

Note: You have to use ' single quotes since you are working within a " double-quoted string.

SELECT *
FROM title
WHERE title = 'The Empire Strikes Back';

That retrieved a lot of movies! Let’s see if we can refine our query. First, movies (as opposed to TV episodes, etc.) have the kind_id value of 1.

SELECT *
FROM title
WHERE title = 'The Empire Strikes Back'
AND kind_id = 1;

Huh. Now we don’t get any results at all. We’ve made our query too specific. It turns out that the actual title of the movie according to IMDB is Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s soften our query by searching for the phrase The Empire Strikes Back within the title. We can do this using the LIKE function along with some wildcards (% in SQL).

SELECT *
FROM title
WHERE title LIKE '%The Empire Strikes Back%'
AND kind_id = 1;

Finally, let’s put those in chronological order.

SELECT t.title, t.production_year
FROM title t
WHERE t.title LIKE '%The Empire Strikes Back%'
AND t.kind_id = 1
ORDER BY production_year;
1. Find your favorite movie in the title table.

2. Find Viola Davis’s id in the name table.

-- SAMPLE SOLUTION
SELECT * FROM name
WHERE name LIKE '%Davis, Viola%';

Note that she is Viola Davis (I).

## Joining two tables

In the IMDB, the title table contains information about movies, the name table contains the names of people, the char_name table contains information about the names of characters, and the cast_info table contains information about which people played which roles in which movies. Linking the tables together is essential in order to extract information from the database.

Since we already know that the ID of The Empire Strikes Back is 4260164, we can use that to find all of the cast assignments.

SELECT *
FROM cast_info
WHERE movie_id = 4260164;

Note that this returns a list of person-role pairs.

1. Find all the rows in cast_info that correspond to Viola Davis as an actress.
-- SAMPLE SOLUTION
SELECT n.name, ci.role_id
FROM cast_info ci
JOIN name n ON n.id = ci.person_id
WHERE ci.person_id = 2977372;

Next, we can join the cast_info table on the name table to recover the names of the people.

SELECT n.name, ci.role_id
FROM cast_info ci
JOIN name n ON n.id = ci.person_id
WHERE movie_id = 4260164;

Note how we have used table aliases to save some typing.

1. Add the names of the characters she played to the list of Viola Davis’s roles from the previous exercise.
-- SAMPLE SOLUTION
SELECT n.name, ci.role_id, cn.name
FROM cast_info ci
JOIN name n ON n.id = ci.person_id
JOIN char_name cn ON cn.id = ci.person_role_id
WHERE ci.person_id = 2977372;

## Joining more than two tables

Of course, we can join more than two tables together in a single query.

1. Find Viola Davis’s full filmography, in chronological order. Include each movie’s title, production_year, and the name of the character that she played.
-- SAMPLE SOLUTION
SELECT t.title, t.production_year, cn.name
FROM cast_info ci
JOIN title t ON ci.movie_id = t.id
JOIN char_name cn ON cn.id = ci.person_role_id
WHERE ci.person_id = 2977372
AND t.kind_id = 1
AND ci.role_id = 2
ORDER BY production_year;

Please respond to the following prompt on Slack in the #mod-sql channel.
Prompt: Does your understanding of dplyr` help with understanding SQL? What questions to you still have about SQL?