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Quick back story, we are working with an outside vendor that has a survey system. The system is not necessarily designed the best in that when you create a new survey and the system creates a new table, i.e:

Tables
____
Library_1 -- table for Survey 1
SurveyId int
InstanceId int
Q_1 varchar(50)

Library_2 -- table for Survey 2
SurveyId int
InstanceId int
Q_2 int
Q_3 int
Q_4 varchar(255)

The tables are generated with the SurveyId at the end of the name (Library_) and the Question columns are generated with the QuestionId at the end of it (Q_). To clarify, the questions are stored in a separate table so while the question ids are sequential they do not start at 1 for each survey. The question columns will be based on the id assigned to them in the table.

Seems simple enough to query, except we need to extract the data from all of the survey tables to be sent to another system and this is where the problem comes in. Since the tables are created automatically when a new survey is added by the front-end application, the other system cannot handle this type of structure. They need the data to be consistent for them to consume.

So I was tasked with writing a stored procedure that will extract the data from all Survey tables and place it in the following format:

SurveyId    InstanceId    QNumber    Response
________    __________    _______    ________
1           1             1          great
1           2             1          the best
2           9             2          10
3           50            50         test

By having the data for all tables in the same format, then it can be consumed by anyone no matter how many survey tables and questions exist.

I wrote a stored procedure that appears to be working but I am wondering if I am missing something or if there is a better way to handle this type of situation.

My code:

declare @sql varchar(max) = ''
declare @RowCount int = 1
declare @TotalRecords int = (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM SurveyData)

Declare @TableName varchar(50) = ''
Declare @ColumnName varchar(50) = ''

WHILE @RowCount <= @TotalRecords
    BEGIN

        SELECT @TableName = tableName, @ColumnName = columnName
        FROM SurveyData
        WHERE @RowCount = rownum


        SET @sql = @sql + 
            ' SELECT s.SurveyId
                , s.InstanceId
                , CASE WHEN columnName = ''' +  @ColumnName + ''' THEN REPLACE(columnName, ''Q_'', '''') ELSE '''' END as QuestionNumber
                , Cast(s.' + @ColumnName + ' as varchar(1000)) as ''Response''
            FROM SurveyData t 
            INNER JOIN ' + @TableName + ' s' +
                ' ON REPLACE(t.tableName, ''Library_'', '''') = s.SurveyID ' +
            ' WHERE t.columnName = ''' + @ColumnName + ''''

        IF @RowCount != @TotalRecords
            BEGIN
                set @sql = @sql + ' UNION ALL'
            END

        SET @RowCount = @RowCount + 1       
    END


exec(@sql)

I have created a SQL Fiddle with some sample data and the code.

Is there a different way this type of query should be written? Are there any noticeable issues with it?

Unfortunately, there are many unknowns with this...how many tables we will have and how many questions per survey. I would say that we will have between 25-50 surveys, with 2-5 questions each.

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1  
I'm afraid to ask, but, "How many tables?" –  RBarryYoung Jul 18 '12 at 3:32
    
@RBarryYoung At this point, that is unknown because it will depend on how many surveys are created. That is part of the problem. –  bluefeet Jul 18 '12 at 10:07
    
Give us a range then. It matters a great deal. –  RBarryYoung Jul 19 '12 at 1:32
    
I would say anywhere from 25-50 tables. –  bluefeet Jul 19 '12 at 1:35
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Based on comments from people in chat, I decided to change my script slightly to INSERT INTO a temp table instead of creating one long SQL statement to execute at the end. So in the end my stored procedure contains the following:

create table #SurveyData
(
    tableName varchar(50),
    columnName varchar(50),
    columnId int,
    rownum int
)

create table #results
(
    SurveyId int,
    InstanceId int,
    QuestionNumber int,
    Response varchar(1000)
)

-- insert the survey table structures for use
insert into #SurveyData (tableName, columnName, columnId, rownum)
select tables1.name, cols1.name, column_id, ROW_NUMBER() over(order by tables1.name, column_id)
from sys.all_columns cols1
inner join 
(
    SELECT *
    FROM sys.all_objects
    WHERE type = 'U' 
    AND upper(name) like 'LIBRARY%' 
) Tables1
    ON cols1.object_id = tables1.object_id
WHERE cols1.name Like 'Q_%'
ORDER BY tables1.name, column_id;


declare @sql varchar(max) = '';
declare @RowCount int = 1;
declare @TotalRecords int = (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM #SurveyData);

Declare @TableName varchar(50) = '';
Declare @ColumnName varchar(50) = '';

WHILE @RowCount <= @TotalRecords
    BEGIN

        SELECT @TableName = tableName, @ColumnName = columnName
        FROM #SurveyData
        WHERE @RowCount = rownum

        SET @sql = 'INSERT INTO #results ' +
                    ' SELECT s.SurveyId
                        , s.InstanceId
                        , CASE WHEN columnName = ''' +  @ColumnName + ''' THEN REPLACE(columnName, ''Q_'', '''') ELSE '''' END as QuestionNumber
                        , Cast(s.' + @ColumnName + ' as varchar(1000)) as ''Response''
                    FROM #SurveyData t 
                    INNER JOIN ' + @TableName + ' s' +
                    ' ON REPLACE(t.tableName, ''Library_'', '''') = s.SurveyID ' +
                    ' WHERE t.columnName = ''' + @ColumnName + ''''

        exec(@sql)

        SET @RowCount = @RowCount + 1       
    END

    SELECT SurveyId, InstanceId, QuestionNumber, Response
    FROM #results

drop table #SurveyData
drop table #results

See SQL Fiddle with the final script

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