An Experimental Evaluation of Property Precedence in Conceptual Modelling

Parsons, J. and Cole, L.

    Interest in evaluating conceptual modelling techniques has recently experienced a revival, in part due to widespread adoption of the Unified Modelling Language (UML). In addition, the use of ontology as a framework for evaluating conceptual modelling techniques has gained acceptance. In this paper, we consider implications of applying one aspect of the ontology of Mario Bunge to conceptual modelling. Specifically, conceptual modelling has traditionally failed to provide mechanisms to indicate that some properties of types or classes may be considered dependent on others. This paper presents a theoretical rationale, using Bunge.s ontological notion of precedence, for explicitly modelling such dependence in conceptual schema diagrams. We present the design of an experimental framework to test the impact of explicitly representing precedence on the ease with which a diagram can convey domain semantics. In addition, we consider how the issue of .common sense. semantics can interfere with experimental procedures to evaluate the semantics conveyed in a diagram.s structure. We offer early experimental results indicating: 1) the explicit modelling of precedence improves the ability of experimental participants to verify the existence of dependence among properties (but has no effect on the ability to verify the semantics conveyed by association cardinalities); and 2) the potential for background knowledge to interfere with the semantics conveyed by diagram structure. We conclude by discussing the need for further research on both these issues.
Cite as: Parsons, J. and Cole, L. (2004). An Experimental Evaluation of Property Precedence in Conceptual Modelling. In Proc. First Asia-Pacific Conference on Conceptual Modelling (APCCM2004), Dunedin, New Zealand. CRPIT, 31. Hartmann, S. and Roddick, J. F., Eds. ACS. 101-110.
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