Syllabus and general information for MCS-274: Database Systems (Spring 2007)


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) 2:30-3:20 Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, 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: Principles, Programming, Performance, 2nd ed., by Patrick O'Neil and Elizabeth O'Neil. Documentation for the Oracle Database 10g Release 2 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.

Mastery homework

The syllabus shows due dates for eight homework assignments; each will typically consist of a few problems. You must turn in all the problems in an assignment by that assignment's due date, but may turn in individual problems earlier if you wish. I will mark each problem as "mastered" or "not yet mastered," and return them to you as rapidly as I can. For those not yet mastered, I may write some brief indication of what area needs work, but you should really take these as an invitation to come talk. You may turn in a revised version of each problem (with the previous graded version attached) however many times it takes to reach the "mastered" point, even after the original due date. The only restrictions are these:

Note that if you turn in each homework problem as soon as you can do it, rather than saving them for the assignment due dates, you will have more opportunity for revision and resubmission before the cutoff dates listed above. Particularly for the last homeworks before each cutoff date (and test), I can't guarantee you'll have time for a revision cycle otherwise.

I may also announce an earlier cutoff date for any individual problem I consider important for us to discuss in class.

The homework portion of your course grade will simply be determined by the fraction of the homework problems you eventually mastered.


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 22%, each of the first three lab projects for 6%, and the final lab project for 12%. 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.

2/62.0-2.4The relational model
2/82.5-2.7Relational algebra
2/92.8-2.10More relational algebra

2/123.0-3.3Simple selectsHW 1
2/153.6-3.9More query features
2/16Lab 1 (relational SQL)

2/19Lab 1 continues
2/203.10-3.11Data modification
2/224.0-4.2Objects and tablesHW 2
2/23Lab 1 concludes

2/26Catch upLab 1
2/27ReviewHW revisions
3/1Intra-term exam 1
3/24.3.0-4.3.1Collection types

3/5Lab 2 (object-relational SQL)
3/64.4.0-4.4.1PL/SQL and methods
3/86.0-6.2Entity-Relationship modelingHW 3
3/9Lab 2 continues

3/126.3-6.4More on E-R modeling
3/136.5-6.6Functional dependencies
3/156.7-6.8.2Normal forms
3/16Normal forms continued

3/196.8.3-6.9More on normal formsLab 2
3/207.0-7.1Integrity constraintsHW 4
3/227.2-7.4Views, security, and metadata
3/23Catch upHW 5

3/26ReviewHW revisions
3/27Intra-term exam 2
3/29No class
3/30No class

4/128.3B-tree indexes
4/13Lab 3 (database design)

4/16Lab 3 continues (w/o Max)
4/178.4-8.5Clustered and hash indexes
4/199.0-9.3Query processingHW 6
4/20Lab 3 continues

4/23Lab 3 concludes
4/249.4-9.6More query processing
4/269.7Join algorithmsLab 3
4/27Lab 4 (final project)

4/30Lab 4 day 2
5/19.8Disk sorts
5/310.0-10.3SerializabilityHW 7
5/4Lab 4 day 3

5/7Lab 4 day 4
5/810.4-10.6Locking and recovery
5/10Lab 4 day 5 (OHS 329)HW 8
5/11Lab 4 day 6

5/14Catch upLab 4
5/15ReviewHW revisions

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>