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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Domain knowledge representation in information systems Rubin, Eran


Information Systems and software embed knowledge about the domain in which they operate. This knowledge can be very useful to various stakeholders in the organization, including developers, users, and other organizational workers. However, it is not readily accessible and usually intertwined with implementation details. Making this knowledge available would be beneficial for several reasons. In particular: 1) software often needs to be updated to reflect changes in the organization; this causes the embedded knowledge to stay current; 2) the actual system development process often incorporates the use of methods and techniques to properly record domain knowledge; 3) knowledge embedded in software is already available in a digital format; and 4) the tools typically used to manage system development (e.g. source and version controls) can be effective in management and control of knowledge. However, despite all these potential advantages, embedded knowledge is usually not readily accessible to knowledge seekers in the organization. This situation impedes the possible utilization of software-embedded knowledge. The objective of this dissertation is to develop ways of making software-embedded domain knowledge available, accessible, and usable to organizational users. The research challenge is to identify what domain knowledge is involved in systems development, to find ways to formalize it, and to demonstrate that it can be explicitly represented in developed systems. The research covers three main aspects: 1) identifying and formalizing embedded domain knowledge obtained in systems development processes; 2) developing methods for representing this knowledge formally to facilitate its use during and after system development and, 3) demonstrate how this knowledge can be explicitly represented in the final IS implementation code. The first aspect, namely the nature of embedded knowledge, is addressed by analyzing the requirements engineering, systems analysis, and enterprise modeling literature in order to identify the main constructs used for domain representation. Formalization is then accomplished using ontological analysis. The feasibility of explicit representation is attained by suggesting a Model Driven Architectures (MDA) where the formalized knowledge is used to drive processing in the system. Usability and usefulness of the ideas are demonstrated in two ways. First, case studies and examples show how domain knowledge acquired during extant methods of systems analysis can be represented using the proposed representation constructs. Second, a sample system design, supporting explicit domain knowledge representation in system code, is proposed and demonstrated via a simple prototype.

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