CPSC 343 Database Theory and Practice Fall 2008

CPSC 343 Course Information

Course Description

Information is the currency of the Information Age, but having vast quantities of information is useless if you cannot quickly locate the relevant data. Computer databases are used to store, organize, and retrieve information quickly and efficiently. Databases are extremely common, particularly in conjunction with Web sites - if you've ever used amazon.com, eBay, or HWS' library catalog (to name just a few sites), you've interacted with a database.

The goal of this course is to provide an introduction to the theory and practice of relational databases. Four major aspects of relational databases will be addressed: data modeling and database design, SQL, building a Web site which interacts with a database, and understanding how database systems store and process information reliably, securely, and efficiently. Both practical skills and the necessary theoretical underpinnings will be emphasized.


Stina Bridgeman
Lansing 312, x3614

Course Web Page


You are expected to regularly consult the course web page for announcements, assignments, and most handouts.


Fundamentals of Database Systems, 5th edition
Elmasri / Navathe
Addison-Wesley, 2007

A copy of the textbook is available on reserve in the library.

Additional material will be handed out or posted on the course webpage.


CPSC 225 and CPSC 229

Rationale & Aims

This course, like the other 300- and 400-level computer science courses, explores a particular subdiscipline of computer science. Many aspects of modern society and commerce involve the management of large quantities of data, so databases are a crucial component of computer systems. Furthermore, the study of database systems brings together many areas of computer science (theory, data structures, algorithms, parallel computing, user interfaces, and more); it is particularly nice as an application of theoretical computer science topics.

By the end of the course, the successful student should be able to:

  • analyze and model the data needs of a real-world situation
  • use a relational database management system to effectively store and access data
  • construct a Web application to access a database
  • explain how relational database systems store information and process queries

Course Content Overview

The course material will cover four major aspects of relational databases: data modeling and database design, SQL, building a Web site which interacts with a database, and understanding how database management systems store and process information reliably, securely, and efficiently. The objectives listed below paint - in broad strokes - what the successful student should be able to do at the end of each section.

Data Modeling and Database Design: The focus of this section of the course will be on the skills needed to effectively design a database using a relational database system such as MySQL. Specific topics include the entity-relationship (ER) model for data modeling, the relational database model, ER-to-relational mapping, and principles of database design.


  • be conversant in the terminology of ER design and relational databases
  • identify the requirements of real-world situations
  • create ER diagrams to model the entities, relationships, and constraints of real-world situations
  • explain the tradeoffs in modeling in a certain way (e.g. entity vs. attribute) and when to pick what
  • identify and employ principles of good design

SQL: This section of the course will focus on the SQL language, a standard for relational databases. Specific topics include data definition, queries, and data-modification commands.


  • use SQL to define a relational data model from an ER diagram, define constraints, populate and modify the database, and perform queries

Database Applications: This section of the course will examine specific technologies for creating applications which make use of databases. The particular focus will be on building Web applications using HTML and PHP.


  • be conversant in the terminologies introduced
  • explain how a three-tier application works and what technologies address what aspects of the system
  • be conversant in the technologies introduced (i.e. be able to read and understand source code, modify an example to suit a similar purpose, and create basic examples from scratch)
  • implement a complete web application which provides a user-friendly interface and interacts with a database

Database Management Systems: The last portion of the course will look at the software systems that make databases happen - the database management systems themselves. The goal is to make the student an informed user of database management systems by understanding some of the factors that affect performance and what control the database administrator/user has over these factors. Specific topics include file structure and data storage, indexing, and query evaluation. If time permits, other topics such as transaction management, reliability, and security will be introduced.


  • be conversant in the terminology
  • explain how information is stored in a computer system, and what issues are relevant to performance
  • compare and contrast methods for indexing, and explain when they should be used
  • express a query using relational algebra, and explain the result of a query
  • produce a set of plans for a moderately complex query, and evaluate which is the most efficient
  • use SQL to create and manipulate indexes

Valid HTML 4.01!