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Databases:  2017-2018



Schedule S1(CS&P)(3rd years)Computer Science and Philosophy

Schedule B1 (CS&P)Computer Science and Philosophy

Schedule S1(3rd years)Computer Science

Schedule B1Computer Science

Schedule S1(M&CS)(3rd years)Mathematics and Computer Science

Schedule B1(M&CS)Mathematics and Computer Science

Schedule BMSc in Advanced Computer Science



MSc students will be assessed by invigilated exam lasting approximately 3 hours in week 0 of HT.

Databases lie at the heart of modern commercial application development. Their use extends beyond this to many applications and environments where large amounts of data are be stored for efficient update and retrieval. Their principles and fundamental techniques are being extended today to the Web and to novel kinds of data, like XML.

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to the principles of database systems. We begin by studying database design, covering the entity relationship model. We then cover the relational data model, relational algebra and SQL. We begin by showing how database requirements are captured using entity-relationship models, and go on to the definition of databases and their queries in the relational model. Relational algebra and calculus are studied in some depth, as are the normal forms for expressing relationships subject to dependencies. The SQL query language is studied in the practical component of the course. The primary data structures and strategies for efficient querying of a database are studied and the course concludes with an application to a database containing spatial data. Throughout, the emphasis is on principles rather then implementation.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will be able to:

  • Understand the relational model, and know how to translate requirements captured in an Entity-Relationship diagram into a relational schema
  • Be able to reason about dependencies in a relational schema
  • Understand normal form schemas, and the decomposition process by which normal forms are obtained
  • Use relational query languages such as SQL
  • Understand equivalences within relational algebra and their use in query optimization
  • Understand indexing and its role in query plans
  • Be able to create database-driven web interfaces


  1. Introduction, E/R diagrams (Ch. 2) 
  2. Relational model, E/R to relational (Ch. 3) 
  3. Relational algebra and Calculus (Ch. 4) 
  4. Overview of SQL (Ch. 5)
  5. Schemas, dependencies and normal forms (Ch. 19)
  6. Transaction Management  (Ch. 16-17)
  7. Storage and indexing (Ch. 8)
  8. Tree Indexes (Ch. 10)
  9. Query evaluation (Ch. 12)
  10. Query optimisation (Chs. 14,15)


Introduction to database management systems; entity relationship modelling; the relational model; relational algebra.

Schema refinement, functional dependencies and normal forms, transaction management. Storage and indexing: B + trees.

Query optimisation.  Practical:Web databases via SQL and PHP.

Reading list

The course text is:
  • Database management systems, by Raghu Ramakrishnan and Johannes Gehrke. 3rd edition, McGraw-Hil.
We may also make reference to:
  • An Introduction to Database Systems, 8th Edition, by C.J. Date. Addison-Wesley, 2000.


Students are formally asked for feedback at the end of the course. Students can also submit feedback at any point here. Feedback received here will go to the Head of Academic Administration, and will be dealt with confidentially when being passed on further. All feedback is welcome.

Taking our courses

This form is not to be used by students studying for a degree in the Department of Computer Science, or for Visiting Students who are registered for Computer Science courses

Other matriculated University of Oxford students who are interested in taking this, or other, courses in the Department of Computer Science, must complete this online form by 17.00 on Friday of 0th week of term in which the course is taught. Late requests, and requests sent by email, will not be considered. All requests must be approved by the relevant Computer Science departmental committee and can only be submitted using this form.