Syllabus for MCS-274: Database Systems (Spring 2013)


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 306) 11:30-12:20 and 1:30-3:20 on Wednesdays 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 507-933-7466. I'll try to put any updates to my office hours on my web page, so check there if in doubt. Already I know that I won't be holding my regular office hours on March 6 and March 13.

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 ask for 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 is available online.


There will be two intra-term tests as shown on the schedule 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 schedule, we will meet in the OHS 326 computer lab rather than in the usual classroom. Each lab assignment will generally 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. In particular, any substantive contribution to your lab projects or homework solutions by another person or taken from a publication should be properly acknowledged in writing. Failure to do so is plagiarism and will necessitate disciplinary action. If you have any questions about the policy, 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 by email (or in hardcopy form) 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. (If you use hardcopy, attach the original or clearly mark your changes onto it.) 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 the start of class on the day indicated on the schedule.

Late assignments

All lab assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated. (Exception: Lab 5 is due by the end of 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.

If you are too sick to complete an assignment on time, you will not be penalized. Simply label your submission as late due to illness. 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 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 hardcopy assignments are always stapled together and that your name is always on them.


Gustavus Adolphus College is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability (or you think you may have a disability of any nature) and, as a result, need reasonable academic accommodation to participate in class, take tests or benefit from the College's services, then you should speak with the Disability Services Coordinator, for a confidential discussion of your needs and appropriate plans. Course requirements cannot be waived, but reasonable accommodations may be provided based on disability documentation and course outcomes. Accommodations cannot be made retroactively; therefore, to maximize your academic success at Gustavus, please contact Disability Services as early as possible. Disability Services ( is located in the Advising and Counseling Center.

Support for English Language Learners (ELL) and multilingual students is available via the College's ELL Support staff person, Andrew Grace ( or x7395). He can meet individually with students to consult about academic tasks and to help students seek other means of support. In addition, ELL and multilingual students can seek help from peer tutors in the Writing Center. Please let me know if there is any accommodation in the course that would enable you to more fully show your abilities; for example, I would consider allowing extra time on tests, as well as allowing a dictionary in an otherwise closed-book test.


Where two topics or activities are shown for a date, they correspond approximately to the two halves of the class period with a brief stretching break in between. However, we will divide the time to meet our needs rather than necessarily at the halfway point.

This is my best guess as to the rate at which we will cover material. However, don't be shocked if I have to revise the schedule.

2/121Database systems
2.1-2.2Relational model

2/142.3-2.4.6SQL and relational algebra

2/196.1Simple queries

2/216.2Multi-relation queries

2/26Lab 1: Basic SQL

2/286.4-6.5Grouping and modification

3/5Review/catch-upHW rewrites (2, 6)
Lab 1 (continued)

3/7Test 1
3.1-3.2Functional dependencies

3/123.3Boyce-Codd Normal FormLab 1
3.4Decomposition properties

3/14No class

3/193.5Third Normal Form
4.1Entity/Relationship modeling

3/214.2-4.4More on E/R modeling
Lab 2: Database design

3/264.5-4.6Realizing E/R models
Lab 2 (continued)

Lab 2 (continued)

4/9Review/catch-upHW rewrites (3, 4, 7)
8.1-8.2, 8.5Views

4/11Test 2 (doesn't cover chapter 8)

4/16Lab 3: Intermediate SQLLab 2

4/189.3SQL environment
9.4Stored procedures

4/239.5-9.7Call-Level InterfacesLab 3
Lab 4: Stored procedures

Lab 4 (continued)

4/3011.1-11.2Semistructured data in XMLLab 4
Lab 5: Project

5/211.3-11.4XML types
Lab 5 (continued)

5/7Lab 5 (continued)

Lab 5 (continued)

Lab 5 (continued)

5/16Lab 5 (continued)

5/2112.3XSLTHW rewrites (8-12)

5/22Lab 5

Course web site:
Instructor: Max Hailperin <>