Skip Navigation

SIE 505 - Overview

Formal Foundations for Information Science

Professor Mike Worboys
Room 348A Boardman Hall

Course Description

In this course, students increase their understanding of the approach to information systems and  science offered by formalisms. The course draws on previous mathematics courses to increase  familiarity with formal syntax and language. It develops understanding and technical ability in  handling discrete structures as well as the formal basis of qualitative reasoning. The course includes a review of fundamental material on set theory, functions and relations, and logic. It  goes on to examine a variety of algebraic structures, formal languages, and geometries. Particular  attention is given to those structures that form the basis of information systems. The course also discusses topics from information theory and algorithmic complexity.

Prerequisites: Enrollment in one of the Departmental of Spatial Information Science and Engineering graduate programs, or permission of instructor.
Credits: 3

Course Objectives

  • To introduce students to formal languages and methods, as they apply to information systems.
  • To develop in students an ability to express issues in information science in formal terms.
  • To develop a formal understanding of information content and it representation in computing environments.
  • To expose students to the application of formal approaches to the development and analysis of information systems.

Expected Outcomes

  • Understand relevance of formal techniques to information systems.
  • Understand roles and functions of formal approaches to information systems.
  • Understand core formal language and methods.
  • Understand factors involved in applying formal approaches to information systems
  • development.
  • Ability to express issues in information system analysis and design in formal terms.

Class Sessions

  • All details about the class recorded material and live sessions can be found here (follow the links to courses and SIE505).

Course Materials 

  • Required: Discrete Mathematics, 3rd edition, S. Lipschutz and M. Lipson, Schaum’s Outline  Series, McGraw Hill, ISBN 0071470387, 1997.
  • Required: Discrete Structures Logic and Computability, 2nd edition, James Hein, Jones and  Bartlett Publishers, ISBN: ISBN 0763718432, 2002
  • The texts will be supplemented with some additional reading materials on topics that they do not cover.

Longer assessments

  • Students are expected to keep a “Course Diary”, which contains all the work and experiments that are undertaken during the course, as well as their observations and reflections on their own learning process.
  • In the first half of the course, students work on a short paper on a specific issue in formal foundations of information system. They also make a short presentation to the group.
  • In the second half of the course, students work on a term paper that explores the connections between formal foundations and information systems engineering. They produce a written report, and make a presentation to the group.


You must have a Skype account for this course (see Please forward your Skype username to after enrolling in the course. The skype username for the course is sie505.

Important Notices

Instructor Office Hours & Discussion Sessions

  • For one-on-one discussions with the instructor, email is often the simplest way to get a message through and a response. You are also welcome to call my offfice at 207-581-3679.
  • On-campus Students: I am in the office most days and you are welcome to drop by or call at any time although appointments are sometimes better for longer discussions. You are also welcome to join in the Thursday evening Discussion Sessions established for on-line students.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Back to SIE 505