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6.893 Syllabus

Professor Samuel Madden (madden AT csail DOT mit DOT edu)
MW 11-12:30, Room 32-144


This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the foundations of database systems, focusing on basics such as the relational algebra and data model, query optimization, query processing, and transactions. This is not a course on database design or SQL programming (though we will discuss these issues briefly). It is designed for students who have taken 6.033 (or equivalent); no prior database experience is assumed though students who have taken an undergraduate course in databases are encouraged to attend.

Classes will consist of lectures and discussions based on readings from the database literature. There will be a semester long project, as well as two exams and a few (2 or 3) problem sets.

Enrollment may be limited.

Topics Covered

Topics related to the engineering and design of database systems, including: data models; database and schema design; schema normalization and integrity constraints; query processing; query optimization and cost estimation; transactions; recovery; concurrency control; isolation and consistency; distributed, parallel, and heterogeneous databases; adaptive databases; trigger systems; pub-sub systems; semi-structured data and XML querying. Lecture and readings from original research papers. Semester-long project and paper.


Students should have taken 6.033 or equivalent. Prior database experience is not required.


3-0-9. 6.893 is a Grad-H class. It counts as an engineering concentration (EC) subject in Systems.


Grades are assigned based on 3 problem sets, 2 quizzes, a final project, and class participation. The grading breakdown is as follows:
  • Problem Sets: 20% total
  • Exams: 10% each
  • Final Project: 45%
  • Class Participation: 15%
Late assignments will not be accepted.

Collaboration Policy

For problem sets, you are allowed to discuss your answers with other students, but please write up your own answers and list your collaborators. Copying solutions from other students is never allowed. For the group project you will work in teams and hand in only one written report.


The course readings will primarily be drawn from the 4th Edition of ``Readings in Database Systems'', edited by Stonebraker and Hellerstein. The text will be available from the Coop. The Third Edition of "Readings In Database Systems" is a substantially different text (it does not include the same readings.) There will be several other readings that will be posted on the course web site.

Supplemental Readings

For an excellent introduction to the basics of database systems, including extensive coverage of, the textbook "
Database Management Systems" from Ramakrishnan and Gehrke is excellent. It is available from Amazon.

6.033 is a prerequisite. You may wish to review 6.033 Chapter 8, especially during our discussion of transactions and logging.