The research area of data profiling consists of a !arge set of methods and processes to examine a given dataset and determine metadata about it. Typically, different data profiling tasks address different kinds of metadata, comprising either various statistics about individual columns (Single-column Analysis) or relationships among them (Dependency Discovery). Among the basic statistics about a column are data type, header, the number of unique values (the column's cardinality), maximum and minimum values, the number of NULL values, and the value distribution. Dependencies involve, for instance, functional dependencies (FDs), inclusion dependencies (INDs), and their approximate versions.
Data profiling has a wide range of conventional use cases, namely data exploration, cleansing, and integration. The produced metadata is also useful for database management and schema reverse engineering. Data profiling has also more novel use cases, such as big data analytics. The generated metadata describes the structure of the data at hand, how to import it, what it is about, and how much of it there is. Thus, data profiling can be considered as an important preparatory task for many data analysis and mining scenarios to assess which data might be useful and to reveal and understand a new dataset's characteristics.
In this thesis, the main focus is on the single-column analysis class of data profiling tasks. We study the impact and the extraction of three of the most important metadata about a column, namely the cardinality, the header, and the number of NULL values.
First, we present a detailed experimental study of twelve cardinality estimation algorithms. We classify the algorithms and analyse their efficiency, scaling far beyond the original experiments and testing theoretical guarantees. Our results highlight their trade-offs and point out the possibility to create a parallel or a distributed version of these algorithms to cope with the growing size of modern datasets.
Then, we present a fully automated, multi-phase system to discover human-understandable, representative, and consistent headers for a target table in cases where headers are missing, meaningless, or unrepresentative for the column values. Our evaluation on Wikipedia tables shows that 60% ofthe automatically discovered schemata are exact and complete. Considering more schema candidates, top-5 for example, increases this percentage to 72%.
Finally, we formally and experimentally show the ghost and fake FDs phenomenon caused by FD discovery over datasets with missing values. We propose two efficient scores, probabilistic and likelihood-based, for estimating the genuineness of a discovered FD. Our extensive set of experiments on real-world and semi-synthetic datasets show the effectiveness and efficiency of these scores.