CPSC 343 Database Theory and Practice Fall 2017

CPSC 343 Course Policies

You are expected to be familiar with the course policies stated below. Ignorance of a policy is not an excuse for violating a policy or being surprised when it is applied to you, and will not exempt you from its penalties.

On this page:


You are expected to regularly check your HWS email and the course web page (especially the course schedule). Assignments, handouts, and other information relevant to the class as a whole will be posted on the course web page. Email will be used in the case of a particularly time-sensitive announcement (e.g. an announcement about a homework which is due in the next class meeting) or for matters which are only relevant to a few people in the class.

Classroom Behavior

You are expected to be on task during class - web surfing, texting, playing games, doing assignments for other courses, etc. are not acceptable. Except in the case of an emergency, leaving the classroom during class is not acceptable. (Take care of any necessary business before or after class!)

Assignments and Evaluation

This course introduces many new terms and concepts, including multiple languages and sets of notation. This means that it is important to do the readings, to prepare for class and actively practice the material, and to keep up rather than letting things slide.

Readings and Class Prep: Readings will typically be the first introduction to new material. Most readings will be in the form of course notes, so they will generally be fairly short but also quite terse. These readings will often be accompanied by several exercises. It is important to attempt these exercises in order to identify questions to be addressed in class. For other readings (such as tutorials or documentation), you should skim the material to get a sense of what information is there and what the key points are, then revisit particular details and examples as you need them. Readings and class prep exercises are to be completed for the class period where they are listed on the schedule page. Class prep exercises will be graded on a "reasonable effort made" basis and will be factored into the class participation grade.

Practice Problems and Homework: Learning new things and gaining new skills typically requires practice, not just reading about a topic or watching someone else do problems. Ungraded practice problems (with solutions) will be posted after most classes; it is your responsibility to try these problems and ask questions in class or office hours if you are having trouble or aren't sure about something. Graded homework problems will be assigned less often, typically at the end of a section or topic.

Project: A substantial course project involving the design and development of a database and application utilizing that database will provide a practical application for the course material. Work on the project will begin early in the semester; the timeline can be found on the schedule page. The project will normally be done in pairs.

Exams: There will be two midterm exams and a final. All three will be take-home exams. Dates for the exams are on the schedule page; more information about content will be announced closer to the exam dates.

Participation: "Participation" covers a number of aspects of engagement in the course: attendance, completion of assigned preparatory work (readings, class prep exercises), meaningful contributions to class, and pulling your weight on group assignments.

Grades: Grades in this course will be computed as follows:

  • Homework: 25%
  • Project: 30%
  • Midterm Exams: 25% (12.5% each)
  • Final Exam: 15%
  • Participation: 5%

Neatness and Coding Standards

Work turned in for this course is expected to be easily readable - it should be clear what answers go with which problems, and what those answers are. Unless otherwise specified, both (legibly) handwritten and typed work is acceptable.

The project will involve coding, either in HTML/PHP or Java. You are not required to adhere to a particular set of coding standards but following reasonable conventions for naming, capitalization, whitespace, and commenting is important for readability of your code and you should be consistent in the choices you make.


You are expected to attend and be on time for all class meetings, and to be present and engaged in the course material for the full class period. Announcements are made at the beginning of class, and late arrivals may miss important information.

Attendance is factored in to the participation grade, and more than a few unexcused absences (see the definition below) will negatively impact this grade. It is your responsibility to make sure that you sign the attendance sheet each day.

In addition, note that any absence, whether excused or not, means that you miss out on discussions and activities that take place in class. This puts a greater burden on you to catch up, and students who regularly miss class often end up not doing as well in the course.

Excused absences include absences due to sports competitions, official Colleges activities such as musical performances or debate competitions, academically-related events such as attending a conference, religious observances, illness, or personal or family emergencies. A reason must be provided in order for such an absence to be counted as an excused absence. (Note that providing a reason does not automatically make an absence excused - it must also be one of the reasons listed above.)

Missing class for other reasons - such as being too busy, oversleeping, or leaving early for a vacation - is considered to be an unexcused absence. Any absence for which no reason is provided is automatically considered to be unexcused.

Making Up Work

You are responsible for acquiring any notes, handouts, assignments, and other material missed as the result of an absence, whether excused or unexcused. This should be done promptly to avoid falling behind.

Every effort should be made to hand assignments in on time, even if you are absent from class that day. If a last-minute emergency prevents you from handing in completed work on time, the assignment will be accepted late without penalty only if arrangements are made as soon as possible to get the assignment handed in. If you need more time to complete the assignment, then you need an extension (see below).

Late Policy, Extensions, and Rescheduling Exams

Late work:

  • Class prep exercises and project milestones will not be accepted late as they will be discussed immediately after they are due.

  • Exams will also not be accepted late.

  • Homework will be penalized 10% if turned in by the next class period after the due date, 20% if turned it within a week of the due date, 30% if turned in by the time of the exam on that material, and 50% thereafter. In addition, late homework may not be returned as promptly. Homework is an important opportunity for practice and feedback prior to an exam, and is most effective if completed closer to when the topic is covered in class (and before the exam on the material). A pattern of late handins is a sign that you are falling behind.

  • The project (final handin) will be penalized 10% if turned in late.

No work will be accepted after the end of the Registrar-scheduled final exam time slot unless an incomplete has been granted.

Extensions for homework and the final project handin and extensions/rescheduling for exams will generally only be granted for the kinds of things that count as excused absences (see the definition under "Attendance" above), and only if a significant portion of the time allocated for the assignment is affected. Note that leaving early for a vacation, being busy, or having a bunch of assignments due at the same time are not considered reasons for extensions. Save often and make backups of your files - computer failures do occur and are generally not grounds for an extension.

Arrangements for extensions or rescheduled exams must be made sufficiently in advance of the date in question - contact me as soon as you know you'll need an extension rather than waiting until the last minute! Last-minute requests may be denied. Also, it is your responsibility to make sure there are actual arrangements (a specific new deadline or date) - simply sending an email notification about an upcoming absence does not constitute "arrangements".

Extensions will not be granted retroactively - if a last-minute emergency prevents you from handing an assignment in on time, the make-up policy applies (see "Making Up Work" above). Note that the "extension" in this case will only be for long enough to get the already-completed assignment handed in; if you need more time to complete the assignment, it will be considered late.

Working Together and Academic Integrity

The HWS Principle of Academic Integrity governs all of the work completed in this course. Specifically:

  • Exams are to be completed solely by the student whose name is on the paper. Only resources allowed in the exam instructions may be used, and the only person you may discuss the exam with is the instructor.

  • Any individual assignment (class prep exercises, homework) must be your work - your ideas and your effort. Unless otherwise specified, you may discuss ideas with and get help from others but:

    • You must write up your solution independently and in your own words - you may not sit down with a friend and complete the assignment together. It should be obvious that you also may not borrow or copy solutions or code from someone or somewhere else. You also may not share your solutions with others before both parties have turned the assignment in. (Using someone else's solution "as a guide" to completing your own is plagiarism, not collaboration, even if you make changes for your own version.)

    • You must fully understand the solution and where it comes from. (You should be able to explain it to someone else.)

    • You must acknowledge who you worked with or got help from in the assignment writeup.

  • For group assignments (such as projects), full collaboration between group members is allowed and expected. Leverage the knowledge and expertise within your group first, but unless otherwie specified, discussion with or getting help from others outside the group is allowed with the same rules as for individual assignments.

For all assignments, copying part or all of someone else's solution is expressly prohibited and it is never acceptable to be in possession of someone else's program or solution before you have handed in your own. Decompiling or reverse-engineering someone else's code (including provided code) is also prohibited.

Failure to acknowledge help received will generally result in a warning the first time, and point deductions for subsequent offenses. Submitting work which is unreasonably similar to another person's work and/or not being able to explain any part of your solution will result in a minimum penalty of a 0 on the assignment. A second such offense is grounds for failure in the course. Plagiarism offenses may also be referred to the Committee on Standards.

There are no exceptions to this policy; ignorance of the policy and desperation ("It was the night before it was due and there wasn't anyone else to ask!") are specifically not excuses for violating the policy. If you are having trouble with the course material, come to the instructor! - it is never advantageous to "borrow" someone else's solution, and the time spent trying to disguise this "borrowing" is far better spent getting help.

From the HWS Catalogue: (available online at http://www.hws.edu/catalogue/policies.aspx)

Principle of Academic Integrity

The faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, recognizing the responsibility of the individual student for his or her own education, assumes honesty and integrity in all academic work at the Colleges. This assumption is the foundation of all intellectual efforts and lies at the heart of this community. In matriculating at the Colleges, each student accepts the responsibility to carry out all academic work with complete honesty and integrity and supports the application of this principle to others.

Categories covered by this principle include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Examinations: Giving or receiving assistance during an examination or quiz violates this principle.
  • Papers: The adoption or reproduction of ideas, words, or statements of another person as one's own, without due acknowledgment, is considered plagiarism and violates this principle.
  • Library Use: Failure to sign for materials taken from the library and similar abuses of library privileges infringe upon the rights of other students to fair and equal access and violate this principle.
  • Reports and Laboratory Exercises: Giving or receiving unauthorized assistance and the fabrication of data or research results violate this principle.
  • Computer Use: Any deliberate attempt to prevent other users access to computer services, deprive them of resources, or degrade system performance violates this principle. The use of programs or files of another computer user or the use of another person's account number or password without permission also violates this principle.

Academic dishonesty is determined in every case by the evidence presented and not by intent. Questions of intent and circumstances under which an infraction occurred may be considered in determining a penalty.

Plagiarism in Programs and on Problem Sets

As with papers, verbatim copying of programs and problem solutions constitutes plagiarism. Also as with papers, plagiarism is not limited to verbatim copying - copying the significant ideas and structure of someone else's program/problem solution also constitutes plagiarism.

But aren't all programs which solve the same task/solutions to the same problem pretty much the same, so won't my program/solution look like everyone else's even if I worked by myself?
It is true that programming languages are simpler and more structured than human languages like English, and so two independently-written programs solving the same problem will be more similar than two independently-written papers on the same topic. However, "more similar" doesn't mean "the same" - there is still flexibility in many aspects of the program, and each programmer will express themselves somewhat differently. It is clear when two programs were derived from the same source, and I routinely run a plagiarism-detection tool on all handins.
Problem sets are similar - there is enough room for variation in most solutions for it to be clear when solutions were derived from the same source.

Programming/problem solving techniques are often explained via examples - what's the difference between using an example and "copying the significant ideas and structure"?
Nothing - the whole point of examples is to provide the significant ideas and structure of the solution, with the idea that the details would be modified for the particular situation.

OK, then, so I can't use any examples because that constitutes plagiarism?!
No, not exactly. What is and isn't allowed is a matter of degree. Let's first define "example" and "solution":

  • An example illustrates a technical point or problem-solving strategy, applied to a different problem instance than the one you are trying to solve. An example can't be used as-is to solve your specific problem, but can be adapted to address some aspect of the problem. For example, an example demonstrating the proper syntax for a while loop is OK to use when writing a program which involves a while loop (as long as the point of the problem isn't to write exactly the while loop given in the example).
  • A solution gives a significant amount of the answer to your particular problem (or an extremely similar problem). Quantity is relevant here - you may view something as just an example (because it doesn't solve your exact problem), but if a single source covers most of what you need to do, it may well be what I consider a "solution".

Using "examples" (as defined above) is generally OK but using "solutions" is not.

There's a fuzzy middle ground here, and I'm still not sure exactly what is OK and what isn't.
Then ASK! - before you get into whatever situation you are wondering about. A few additional guidelines which may help:

  • Any materials provided as part of the course (examples in the textbook, from class, and directly posted on the webpage) are acceptable to use/adapt (unless specifically forbidden, such as on exams).
  • Any solutions written by another student (either this term or in previous terms) are not acceptable to use as "inspiration" or a guide when you are working on the same assignment. (Looking at someone else's work later, after the assignment has been handed in, is fine.)
  • Use caution with materials from other sources - think "examples, not solutions" and ask if you have any questions. In fact, ask even if you are sure something is allowed. (Specifically looking through other materials to find solutions to problems you've been assigned is not acceptable.)
  • Use common sense - the purpose of assignments is for you to practice and gain understanding of the material, and for you to demonstrate what you have mastered. If you are mostly just tweaking something written by someone else - even if you spend a lot of time renaming variables and inserting comments - then what you are turning in isn't your work.

Being Successful and Getting Help

There is a lot of new material in this course, and at any point you will potentially have several active assignments: reading and class prep, practice problems, homework, and the project. Don't fall behind! It is important that you budget your time so that you can fit all of these things in and get them in on schedule.

The primary resources for this course are your group (for the project), other students in the course (when allowed), and the instructor - during lab, during office hours, and dropping by or scheduling a meeting outside of office hours.

For more general help, such as with writing, study skills, or time management, you are encouraged to check out the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we encourage you to learn collaboratively and to seek the resources that will enable you to succeed. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is one of those resources: CTL programs and staff help you engage with your learning, accomplish the tasks before you, enhance your thinking and skills, and empower you to do your best. Resources at CTL are many: Teaching Fellows provide content support in 12 departments, Study Mentors help you find your time and manage your responsibilities, Writing Fellows help you think well on paper, Q Fellows support you in courses that require math, and professional staff help you assess academic needs.

Study Mentors: The CTL resource especially valuable to students either just starting college OR adjusting to the demands of their choice of Major is the Study Mentor program. Study Mentors engage directly with each student in the process of adjusting to new academic demands: they help you find the time you need for both your academic and co-curricular activities, and can help you find strategies to accomplish the tasks in front of you and enhance your reading and study time. Study Mentors may be especially important for those of you who are involved in many activities, work on or off campus, are studying for Teaching Certification, graduate school exams, or prepping for fellowships, or who have one or more unusually demanding courses on your schedule. To meet with a Study Mentor, make an appointment via StudyHub on the CTL website. You can also contact Ingrid Keenan, x3832, keenan@hws.edu, or drop in at the CTL office on the 2nd floor of the library.

Disability Accommodations

If you are a student with a disability for which you may need accommodations, you should self-identify, provide appropriate documentation of your disability, and register for services with the Coordinator of Disability Services at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Disability related accommodations and services generally will not be provided until the registration and documentation process is complete. The guidelines for documenting disabilities can be found at the following website: http://www.hws.edu/academics/ctl/disability_services.aspx

Please direct questions about this process or Disability Services at HWS to Christen Davis, Coordinator of Disability Services, at ctl@hws.edu or x3351.

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