Syllabus and general information for MCS-274: Database Systems (Spring 2009)


Essentially all contemporary information systems in commercial applications use 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 on 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 A First Course in Database Systems, 3rd ed., by Jeffrey D. Ullman and Jennifer Widom. If you would prefer to acquire Database Systems: The Complete Book, 2nd ed., by Hector Garcia-Molina, Jeffrey D. Ullman, and Jennifer Widom, that would be equally acceptable: it contains a verbatim copy of the First Course plus additional chapters we won't be using.

Documentation for the Oracle Database 10g Release 2 will also be available both online and in hardcopy form in the lab.


There will be two intra-term tests as shown on the syllabus and a final exam as scheduled by the registrar. If you have a conflict with a testing time, please contact me as soon as possible to make an alternative arrangement.

Exams will be closed-book and mostly closed-notes. You may, however, use a single 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper with hand-written notes for reference. (Both sides of the sheet are OK.)


Some days, shown in the syllabus, we will meet in the OHS 326 computer lab rather than in the usual classroom. Each lab assignment 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.

Homework assignment policy

I will assign a collection of homework problems for each chapter (except chapter 1). 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. The reason why I won't write much on the work I turn back to you is because I would like to talk with you face-to-face. If a problem needs more work, 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, attached to (or clearly marked on) the original. In fact, you may turn 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.

The final deadline for rewrites of homework problems is 2:30pm on February 26th for chapters 2 and 6, 2:30pm on April 7th for chapters 3, 4, and 7, and 2:30pm on December 14th for chapters 8-12.

Late 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.


The course components will contribute to your grade in the following proportion:

However, I reserve the right to subjectively adjust your final grade. Please see me if you have any question how you stand. Class participation is not graded; however, it allows you to find and repair the gaps in your understanding before doing the assignments, and thus can dramatically improve your grade. 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.


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.

2/91Database systems
2/102.1-2.2Relational model
2/122.3-2.4.6SQL and relational algebra

2/166.1Simple queries
2/176.2Multi-relation queries
2/20Lab 1: Basic SQL

2/236.4-6.5Grouping and modification
2/25Lab 1 (continued)
2/26Office hour
2/27Review/catch-upHW rewrites (2, 6)

3/2Test 1
3/33.1-3.2Functional dependencies
3/53.3Boyce-Codd Normal Form
3/6No class (trip to Federated Insurance)

3/93.4Decomposition propertiesLab 1
3/103.5Third Normal Form
3/124.1Entity/Relationship modeling
3/134.2-4.4More on E/R modeling

3/16Lab 2: Database design
3/174.5-4.6Realizing E/R models
3/20Lab 2 (continued)

3/30Lab 2 (continued)
3/318.1-8.2, 8.5ViewsLab 2
4/3Lab 3: Intermediate SQL

4/6Lab 3 (continued)
4/7Review/catch-upHW rewrites (3, 4, 7)
4/9Test 2 (doesn't cover chapter 8)

4/149.3SQL environmentLab 3
4/169.4Stored procedures
4/17Lab 4: Stored proceduresLab 2 rewrite

4/20Lab 4 (continued)
4/219.5-9.7Call-Level Interfaces
4/2310.1PrivilegesLab 4
4/24Lab 5: Project

4/27Lab 5 (continued)
4/2811.1-11.2Semistructured data in XML
4/3011.3-11.4XML types
5/1Lab 5 (continued)

5/4Lab 5 (continued)
5/8Lab 5 (continued)

5/11Lab 5 (continued)
5/14Review/catch-upHW rewrites (8-12)
5/15Lab 5 (continued)

5/18Lab 5 (continued)
5/19To be determinedLab 5

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>