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Specification and Analysis - The aim of this section is to investigate the user's requirements and draw up a set of working objectives.

Extracts from this document...


Minor Coursework Draft 1                21/01/01


Section A – Specification and Analysis (13 Marks)

The aim of this section is to investigate the user’s requirements and draw up a set of working objectives. This involves a feasibility study and analysis of existing systems (both computer and/or paper-based) to determine what user requirements (objectives) could be addressed by the introduction of a database system.


After finding an organisation on which to base your project you need to get in touch with them to discuss it in more detail. A three-step approach is recommended:

1. An informal discussion to establish the problem. You should then complete appendix A and discuss it with your teacher before agreeing to tackle the problem. Remember that the project has to have enough scope to gain you good marks and that you have a limited amount of time in which to complete the project. Under no circumstances take on a project that is too big or too small without consulting your teacher.

2. A formal investigation. This could take the form of an interview, observation or questionnaire. Try to get hold of any original documents (order forms, invoices, receipts etc.) for inclusion in your appendices. These will help to identify what data will need to be stored and any processing that will have to be carried out.

3. With the end-user agree set of objectives for a new system.


You could use the following outline plan to write up your specification. This is not prescriptive and you may choose to include more headings:

1.        Introduction

1.1        Background

Describe the organisation in very general terms and give some brief background information about it. Nature of its business; Is it a big/small organisation; Number of transactions per day etc.

1.2        Statement of the problem

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  1. Database Design

2.1        Entity-Relationship Diagram

Explain briefly what an E-RD is and draw a diagram to provide evidence that you have normalised the data in your system (in a minor project you do not have to formally document the process of normalisation). The diagram should be annotated if necessary to explain the exact nature of the relationships (e.g. one salesperson is allocated one company car – one-to-one relationship). Write a brief sentence to explain the purpose of each table in your design e.g. Customers – this will hold details such as the name and address of existing customers. In the case of “link” tables such as Orders explain why the link is necessary.

2.2        Data Descriptions

You will need to describe in detail the attributes of every piece of stored data in your system. For each table described in 2.1 above complete a table design sheet – Appendix D.

Attention to detail here is particularly important. You receive better marks for showing an appreciation of the importance of data type, field length, format, default values, validation rules and input masks. Annotate your design sheets to explain why you have made decisions e.g. Why is the product description field data type memo? Why did you use a lookup field on the customer’s courtesy title?

  1. Input

3.1        Forms - Background

Explain why the use of forms is important in a databaseapplication. Remember that you are designing a system for another user and not yourself. Your end-user may be a database novice and could easily get into trouble trying to enter, amend or delete data at table and query level. Using input forms protects her or him from the reality of the database – they don’t need to know how that data is stored in different tables or how to perform operations such as searching the database.

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  1. Try and evaluate why some objectives weren’t achieved and make notes on why not. You don’t need to know the solution but try to explain how your solutions failed. Be honest!
  1. Make sure you have an end-user questionnaire. See Section D. Your end-user is the only person who can truly evaluate the system. (S)he should have evaluated your system already. Try and get them to complete a summary evaluation (cross-referenced to the original user requirements) printed or written on company notepaper.


Your evaluation must prove two things:

  1. You have, as far as possible, satisfied the user requirements
  2. You have taken account of the limitations of your solution

You could use the following outline plan to write up your evaluation. This is not prescriptive and you may choose to include more headings:

  1. Evaluation

1.1                User requirements

Restate your original user requirements and/or objectives as a numbered list. This will provide a checklist for you to evaluate your project against

1.2                System Evaluation

Work through the numbered list systematically and evaluate how well you have met your objectives – some will have been completely met, others partially met and others not met at all. Be honest in your evaluation. You’ll be given credit for recognising the limitations of your solution.

Don’t make broad, sweeping statements such as “it worked well”. Each of the comments in your evaluation must be cross-referenced to evidence – either the results of your testing or feedback provided by the end-user.

  1. Enhancements

Even if your system met all the end-user requirements and passed rigorous testing it is likely that it could still be improved. Write a few paragraphs outlining how your system could be improved. This may include minor enhancements (such as adding or removing controls from a form) or major upgrades (adding completely new modules).


Now sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Enjoy having some time to yourself and take a moment to relax. We start the major project in two weeks!


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