Requirements Engineering

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 146–160 | Cite as

Ontology based object-oriented domain modelling: fundamental concepts

  • Joerg Evermann
  • Yair Wand
Original Article


Understanding the business is an important step in information system (IS) development. Conceptual models are descriptions of the organizational context for which a system is developed, and are used to help understanding this context. However, conceptual modelling methods do not provide well-formalized ways to create domain descriptions. On the other hand, in the area of IS design and software modelling, languages exist (such as UML) that possess a high level of formality. Extending the use of these IS design languages to conceptual modelling, even though they have not been specifically intended for this, can lead to several advantages. In particular, it can enable the use of similar notation in several stages of system development. However, while object-oriented constructs such as “object” and “operation” have clear meaning in the context of software design, it is not clear what they might mean in terms of the application domain, and no rules or guidelines exist for using them to create useful descriptions of such domains. This paper suggests specific semantics for object-oriented constructs based on a mapping between ontologically derived concepts and object-oriented language constructs. The paper also proposes modelling rules to guide the construction of object-oriented conceptual models and to assure that such models describe only ontologically feasible application domain situations. While the results are applicable to object-oriented constructs in general, UML is used as an example. A case study to test the use of the proposed semantics and modelling rules is described.


Object-oriented modelling System analysis Business analysis UML Ontology 


  1. 1.
    Mylopoulos J (1992) Conceptual modeling and telos. In: Locoupoulos P, Zicari R (eds) Conceptual Modeling, Databases, and Cases. Wiley, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Booch G (1994) Object Oriented Analysis and Design with Applications. Benjamin/Cummings, Redwood City, CAGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Coleman D, Arnold P, Bodoff S, Dollin C, Gilchrist H (1994) Object-Oriented Development: The Fusion Method. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jacobson I (1992) Object-Oriented Software Engineering: A Use Case Driven Approach. Addison-Wesley, Wokingham, MAGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    OMG (2001) The Unified Modelling Language Specification. Version 1.4, The Object Management GroupGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kolp M, Giorgini P, Mylopoulos J (2002) Information systems development through social strcutures. International conference on software engineering and knowledge engineering SEKE, pp183–190Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rozen S, Shasha D (1989) Using a relational system on Wall Street: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ideal. Commun ACM 32(8):988–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Roe P (2003) Distributed XML Objects. Joint modular languages conference JMLC, pp 63–68Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cilia M, Haupt M, Mezini M, Buchmann A (2003) The convergence of AOP and active databases: Towards reactive middleware. International conference on generative programming and component engineering GPCE, pp 169–188Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Angeles P (1981) Dictionary of Philosophy. Harper Perennial, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Wand Y, Weber R (1993) On the ontological expressiveness of information systems analysis and design grammars. J Inf Syst 3:217–237Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Noy NF, Hafner CD (1997) The state of the art in ontology design: a survey and comparative review. AI Mag 18(3):53–74Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Uschold M, Gruninger M (1996) Ontologies: principles, methods, and applications. Knowl Eng Rev 11:2Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Guarino N, Welty C (2002) Evaluating ontological decisions with OntoClean. Commun ACM 45(2):61–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Bunge MA (1977) Ontology I: the furniture of the world, Vol. 3. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, HollandGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bunge MA (1979) Ontology II: a World of Systems, Vol. 4. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, HollandGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Dussart A, Aubert BA, Patry M (2002) An evaluation of inter-organizational workflow modeling formalisms, Working Paper, Ecole des Haute Etude Commerciales Montreal, QCGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Fettke P, Loos P (2003) Ontological evaluation of reference models using the Bunge-Wand-Weber model. Americas conference on information systems AMCIS, Tampa, FLGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Green P, Rosemann M (2000) Ontological analysis of integrated process modelling. Inf Syst 25:2Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Opdahl A, Sindre G (1993) Concepts for real-world modelling, Conference on Advanced Information Systems Engineering CAiSE, pp 309–327Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Opdahl A, Henderson-Sellers B (1999) Evaluating and improving OO modelling languages using the BWW-model. Information Systems Foundation WorkshopGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Opdahl A, Henderson-Sellers B, and Barbier F (1999) An Ontological evaluation of the OML metamodel. In: Falkenberg E, Lyytinen K (eds) Information system concepts: an integrated discipline emerging. IFIP/KluwerGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Opdahl A, Henderson-Sellers B (2001) Grounding the OML meta-model in ontology. J Syst Softw 57(2):119–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Opdahl A, Henderson-Sellers B (2002) Ontological evaluation of the UML using the Bunge-Wand-Weber model. Softw Syst Model 1(1):43–67Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Parsons J, Wand Y (1997) Using objects for systems analysis. Commun ACM 40(12):104–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Wand Y (1989) A proposal for a formal model of objects. In: Kim W, Lochovsky F (eds) Object-oriented concepts, languages, applications and databases. ACM Press/Addison-Wesley, pp 537–559Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Wand Y, Weber R (1989) An ontological evaluation of systems analysis and design methods. In: Falkenberg E, Lindgreen P (eds) Information system concepts: an in-depth analysis. Elsevier science publishers, BVGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Wand Y, Storey V, Weber R (1999) An ontological analysis of the relationship construct in conceptual modeling. ACM Trans Database Syst 24(4):494–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Soffer P, Golany B, Dori D, Wand Y (2001) Modelling off-the-shelf information systems requirements: an ontological approach. Requirements Eng 6(3):183–199Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Takagaki K, Wand Y (1991) An object-oriented information systems model. In: Proceedings of the IFIP working group 8.1 on the object oriented approach to information systems, Quebec City, pp 275–296Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Bodart F, Weber R (1996) Optional properties versus subtyping in conceptual modelling: A theory and empirical test. International conference on information systems ICIS, p 450Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bodart F, Sim M, Patel A, Weber R (2001) Should optional properties be used in conceptual modelling? A theory and three empirical tests. Inf Syst Res 12:4Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Cockroft S, Rowles S (2003) Ontological evaluation of health models: some early findings. In: 7th pacific asia conference on information systems PACIS, Adelaide, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Gemino A (1999) Empirical comparisons of systems analysis modeling techniques, PhD Thesis, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BCGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Weber R, Zhang Y (1996) An analytical evaluation of NIAM’s grammar for conceptual schema diagrams. Inf Syst J 6(2):147–170Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Wand Y, Weber R (1995) On the deep structure of Information Systems. Inf Syst J 5:203–223Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Fowler M, Kendall S (2000) UML distilled: a brief guide to the standard object-oriented modelling language. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Parsons J, Wand Y (1991) The object paradigm - two for the price of one? Workshop on Information Technology and Systems WITS, pp 308–319Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information ManagementVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.The Sauder School of BusinessThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.MIS Department, School of Social SciencesHaifa UniversityHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations