Syllabus and general information for MCS-274: Database Systems (Spring 2005)


Essentially all contemporary information systems in commercial applications use relational or object-relational database technology. This course provides an introduction to this technology, both as a collection of hands-on skills and as a conceptual subject with mathematical foundations. The course includes an integrated laboratory component and a realistic database development project.

Office hours

I will be available in my office (OHS 303) 10:30-11:20 Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, as well as by appointment. Or try your luck: just stop by and see whether my door is open. You may send me electronic mail at or call me at extension 7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my web page, so check there if in doubt.

World Wide Web

All course materials will be available through my World Wide Web page. The URL for this course is After this syllabus I will give hardcopy handouts only to those students who want them.

Text and documentation

Our primary text is Database Systems: An Application-Oriented Approach, Introductory Version, 2nd ed., by Michael Kifer, Arthur Bernstein, and Philip M. Lewis. Only Chapters 1-13 of the textbook are assigned in the syllabus. However, you may want to consult Chapters 14 and 15 for project guidance, particularly if you have not taken MCS-270 (object-oriented software development). Chapters 16 and 17 could make interesting reading if you are looking for something a little extra. Documentation for MySQL and Java will also be available both online and in hardcopy form in the lab.


Some days, shown in the syllabus, we will meet in the OHS 326 computer lab rather than in the usual classroom. Lab projects will also require you to spend additional time out of class.


You are expected to be familiar with the college academic honesty honor code policy, and to comply with that policy. If you have any questions about it, please ask. One specific requirement of that policy is that you write the following in full and sign it on every examination and graded paper:

On my honor, I pledge that I have not given, received, nor tolerated others' use of unauthorized aid in completing this work.

For the purposes of this policy, I am defining "graded papers" to be lab reports but not homework problems. (I still expect you to comply with the honor code on homework problems, just not to write the explicit pledge on them.) When lab reports are co-authored, each co-author should write and sign the pledge.

Homework assignment policy

I will assign homework problems. You may turn in any individual homework problem whenever you think you have it solved. I will return it to you as quickly as I can, but normally with only an indication of whether it is acceptable or needs more work. (Sometimes I may give a brief indication of what area it needs more work in.) If a problem needs more work, and you aren't sure what sort of work it still needs, you should treat that as an invitation to come talk with me about it. Once you've done the additional work, you may turn the problem in again. In fact, you may turn in each problem in as many times as you like, until it is marked as acceptable. Your grade for the homework portion of the course will be based on the fraction of homework problems that you eventually did acceptably.

Normally homework problems may be turned in at any time up until the start of class on March 1st for Chapter 1 through Section 5.1, April 6th for Section 5.2 through Chapter 8, and May 17th for Chapters 9-13. However, if we would benefit from discussing a homework problem in class, I may issue a "last call" for solutions to that problem, at least a week in advance.

Unless I indicate that a particular problem must be done individually, you may work on any problem in a group of two or three students. One copy of the solution produced by the team should be turned in, with all team members names on it. Write "we all contributed fairly to this solution" and have all team members sign under that statement.


There will be two intra-term exams and a final exam. The intra-term exams will be given in class as shown on the syllabus. The final exam will be as scheduled by the registrar. For each test, you may use one 8.5x11 sheet of handwritten notes. (Both sides of the sheet are OK.)

Late lab assignments

All lab assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. Late lab assignments will be penalized by one ``grade notch'' (such as A to A- or A- to B+) for each weekday late or fraction thereof. However, no late assignments will be accepted after graded assignments are handed back or solutions are distributed.

If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you will not be penalized. Simply write ``late due to illness'' at the top of the assignment, sign your name and hand it in. Other circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Grade changes

Please point out any arithmetic or clerical error I make in grading, and I will gladly fix it. You may also request reconsideration if I have been especially unjust.


I will provide you with a grade on each test and lab assignment, in addition to the mid-term and final grades, so that you may keep track of your performance. Each of the three tests will count for 16% of the course grade, the homework for 20%, and the lab projects for 32%. However, I reserve the right to subjectively adjust your final grade. Please see me if you have any question how you stand. You are responsible for all course material, whether or not you are present when it was covered or distributed.

Style guidelines

All assignments should be readily readable, and should not presuppose that I already know what you are trying to say. Use full English sentences where appropriate (namely almost everywhere) and clear diagrams, programs, etc. Remember that your goal is to communicate clearly, and that the appearance of these technical items plays a role in this communication process. Be sure your assignments are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.


If you have a learning, psychological, or physical disability for which a reasonable accommodation can be made, I would be happy to refer you to the college's disability services coordinator, and to cooperate in the accommodation process. It is generally best if this can be done as soon as possible.


In the reading column, section 0 means the material at the beginning of a chapter before the first section. Analogously, subsection 0 is the material at the beginning of a section before the first subsection.

This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material. However, don't be shocked if I have to pass out one or more revised syllabi.
2/82Introductory examples
2/93.0-3.3.4Relational data model
2/113.3.5-3.3.12Constraints and views

2/144.0-4.4Entity-Relationship modeling
2/154.5From E-R to relational database schemas
2/16Lab day
2/18Designing schemas, continued

2/214.6-4.7Unified Modeling Language
2/224.8-4.9Case study
2/235.0-5.1.1Relational algebra
2/25No class (conference)

2/285.1.2Derived operatorsLab 1
3/1Review/catch-uphomework revisions
3/2Lab day
3/4Intra-term exam 1

3/75.2.0-5.2.2Simple SQL queries
3/8No class (trip to West)
3/95.2.3-5.2.4Nested queries and quantification
3/115.2.5-5.2.10Aggregate and other queriesLab 2

3/146.0-6.4Functional dependencies
3/156.5-6.7Normal forms
3/16Lab day
3/186.8-6.9,6.11-6.13More normal forms

3/217.0-8.2.4Triggers and embedded SQL
3/22Real world: Ron Colwill and Paul Johansen from Midwest Wireless
3/238.2.5-8.3,8.5.0-8.5.8Stored procedures and JDBC

4/4Lab day
4/5Lab day (in OHS 329)
4/6Review/catch-uphomework revisions
4/8Intra-term exam 2

4/11Project management
4/12Initial project briefingsLab 3
4/13Project work
4/15Project work

4/18Project work
4/19Second project coordination meetingsProject draft
4/20Project work
4/22Project work

4/25Project work
4/26Project delivery meetingsProject deliverables
4/279.0-9.4Physical organization and indexes
4/299.5Multilevel indexing

5/29.6-9.8Hash indexing
5/310.0-10.4External sorting and selection
5/410.5-10.7Computing joins (12:50-1:20)
5/6Lab day

5/911.0-11.3Query optimization
5/1011.4-11.5More on query optimization
5/11Lab day
5/1312Database tuning

5/1713.2-13.3Atomicity and durability
5/18Review/catch-up/evaluationLab 5 and homework revisions

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>