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SQL Server Execution Plans, 2nd Edition by Grant Fritchey

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Chapter 6: Cursor Operations

Most operations within a SQL Server database should be set-based, rather than using the procedural, row-by-row processing embodied by cursors. However, there may still be occasions when a cursor is the more appropriate or more expedient way to resolve a problem. Certainly, most query processing to support application behavior, reporting and other uses, will be best solved by concentrating on set-based solutions. However, certain maintenance routines will be more easily implemented using cursors (although even these may need to be set-based in order to reduce the maintenance footprint in a production system).

A specific set of operators, within execution plans, describe the effects of the operations of a cursor. ...

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