CS542 Course Syllabus - Fall 2012

Professor: Elke A. Rundensteiner
Office: WPI, Fuller Labs #238 (the office at the end of the hall).
Email: rundenst at-the-typical-wpi address

Course homepage: http://web.cs.wpi.edu/~cs542/f12
Class meetings: Tu/Th, 4:00pm - 5:20pm, WPI, Fuller Labs 320
Office hours: AFTER class.

How To Contact Me And Office Hours:

Class Mailing List

Note that a email mailing list "cs542" for this course has been set up to contain all students that have registered. You will be automatically added to this class mailing list - if you are registered for the course. In general, instructions of how to subscribe yourself to mailing lists at WPI can be found here.
Please send questions or material to the entire class via the mailing list alias for items of GENERAL interest only. If there is very frequent email interactions in this course, I open the news group pages via mywpi to have the communication in one dedicated e-space.

Intended Audience

This course is designed for students interested in database application development, to those interested in understanding the ins and outs of database systems, those interested in getting a solid foundation in the general area of data-intensive processing. those dealing with large-scale data management and analysis in the broader sense, and also those interested in database and information systems research and in conducting an MS thesis or a dissertation.

Recommended Background

An undergraduate database course or equivalent knowledge is desired, but not required. While some students may have had prior database experience, others may not. Thus we will review the database fundamentals such that those without prior DBMS background can participate in the course.
Prerequisite is some knowledge of algorithms and data structures, or permission of instructor. Take to the instructor, if in doubt.
Some programming experience will be expected for this course, such as Java, C++, or C#, because there will be a course project.

Required Text Book

Used copies of this book should be available in the WPI bookstore, and can also be bought in various web stores from Amazon.com to others.

Up-to-date material on the book, including copies of lecture overheads, solutions to some assignments, known errors in the book, sample projects, instructions for setup, and so on can be gotten from a web site maintained by the authors of the textbook at:

Readings from this book will be covered in the class. Lecture notes will be based on this book and its terminology. So you are strongly encouraged to get this book.

Helpful Optional Readings

For a reference for SQL, you may want to consult online references. Also many basic books exist introducing you to the SQL standard or to the particulars of one of the commercial DBMS systems, such as : Other books which are good alternate references for the basic database material covered in the course include:

Grading Policy

Final grades computed based on 100 points: Note that students are expected to read the material assigned for each class in advance and to participate in class discussions. Class participation will be taken into account when deciding students' final grades.

In general, each assignment will have a basic objective for the majority of the assignment points and an extended objective for demonstrating additional work and understanding. Final grades will reflect the extent to which you have demonstrated understanding of the material through class discussions, interactions in office hours, and performance in homeworks and exams, as well completed the assigned projects. The base level grade will be a ``B'' (good) which indicates that all the basic objectives on assignments and exams have been met. A grade of ``A'' (excellent/exceeding expectations) indicates significant achievement beyond the basic objectives. A grade of ``C'' will indicate not all basic objectives were met, but work was satisfactory for credit. A grade of ``D'' will indicate that there were significant holes in your understanding and/or your work. No incomplete grades will be assigned unless exceptional extenuating circumstances exist.

Homeworks (Online and on Paper)

Several homework assignments will be given throughout the course, both online and written homework. Online homeworks will typically be assigned using Oracle and expected to be undertaken on the WPI Oracle server. All students in the course will be given an account on that server.


We will have a midterm and a final. The exams will be held in class. The exam will test your understanding of the basic ideas and objectives of the class as covered in the course book and the lectures.

Course Project

There will be one course project which will be performed by student groups. The goal of this project is for you to gain in-depth knowledge in one particular area of databases of your own chosing. Your project can range from a practical DB application (such as design and implementation of an application on a DBMS server), to DB system implementations (such as development of an SQL query optimizer), a more exploratory implementation project (such as collecting and installing for example several data mining algorithms, and comparing their scalable performance on huge data sets using Mahout technology), or research-oriented work (such as reviewing current database literature or technologies and suggesting possible solutions to address that identified problem).

You are required to run your project topic and particular project by the instructor for approval.

Project grading: The final grade of the team project (which will be default be the same for each member of the team, unless differences in contribution of the members to the project are observed) will consist of:

There will be four deadlines to the project: first project topic decision, then written project proposal, then project progress report, and lastly the final project report and presentation. More detailed requirements for the project description writeup and the time schedule are available at the course webpage.

Research Report

This portion of the course is to be decided at a later time in the course. Depending on how quickly we get through the bulk of the material and the level of background or lack thereof of the majority of the students in the course, we may decide to involve literature research and a report (and possibly presentations by students), as described below. In this case, student teams will select one topic for in-depth study that is not explicitly covered in the course. This could be a particular commercial database system, some advanced new database technology, or emerging database trends. Tasks will include to collect papers from the literature in that one chosen area. The goal of this effort is for you to gain knowledge in one additional topic of databases of your own chosing and not covered in the textbook, and to share this knowledge with the rest of the class.

The final output of this effort will be a student report on the topic, and selectively a student presentation in front of the class, time permitting (only if small class size). If presentations, they would typically be during the actual course period. Some teams must just be asked to submit written reports only, You would need to discuss your presentation topic with the instructor for approval first before proceeding on it.

Late Policy

You are strongly encouraged to turn in any assignments on-time. Unless otherwise noted for a particular assignment, the following late policy holds. You will be allowed a one time one day late turn-in without penalty, assuming you have a good reason for the lateness and you get explicit permission from the instructor to do so. All other late assignments will be penalized by subtracting 30% of the total achievable points of that deliverable, if turned in within the first 24 hours after the due date. Between 24 to 48 hours late turnin will result in a reduction of 70% of the total achievable points. Late point reductions cannot be made up by later improvements of the assignment. Certain deliverables may not allow for ANY LATE day, as would be announced in class.

A Note on Plagerism and Cheating

Unless explicitly noted, all work is to be done on an individual basis and by yourself. You are encouraged to discuss with others about ideas and material in the course, in preparing for exams, in understanding homework problems, project statements, etc. However, all homework solutions, exams are to be written individually, and the solutions should be your own, unless otherwise specified. Projects encourage teamwork, that is, in that case you are expected to work closely with your partner/(s) to solve problems and prepare a common agreed-upon solution.

Note in particular that copying of any material, may it be a single sentence or a figure, from any location (including the internet) without proper acknowledgement of the source constitutes plagerism. If in doubt, please ask for clarification. Any violation of the WPI's guidelines for academic integrity will result in no credit for the course and referral to the Student Affairs Office for disciplinary action. More information on definitions, responsibilities and procedures regarding the WPI academic honesty policy can be found here.

Policy on Americans with Disabilities

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you have medical information to share with me, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. If you have not already done so, students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion. This office is located in the West St. House (157 West St), (508) 831-4908.