Universal Access in the Information Society

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 435–467 | Cite as

Ontology-based end-user visual query formulation: Why, what, who, how, and which?

  • Ahmet Soylu
  • Martin Giese
  • Ernesto Jimenez-Ruiz
  • Evgeny Kharlamov
  • Dmitriy Zheleznyakov
  • Ian Horrocks
Long paper


Value creation in an organisation is a time-sensitive and data-intensive process, yet it is often delayed and bounded by the reliance on IT experts extracting data for domain experts. Hence, there is a need for providing people who are not professional developers with the flexibility to pose relatively complex and ad hoc queries in an easy and intuitive way. In this respect, visual methods for query formulation undertake the challenge of making querying independent of users’ technical skills and the knowledge of the underlying textual query language and the structure of data. An ontology is more promising than the logical schema of the underlying data for guiding users in formulating queries, since it provides a richer vocabulary closer to the users’ understanding. However, on the one hand, today the most of world’s enterprise data reside in relational databases rather than triple stores, and on the other, visual query formulation has become more compelling due to ever-increasing data size and complexity—known as Big Data. This article presents and argues for ontology-based visual query formulation for end-users; discusses its feasibility in terms of ontology-based data access, which virtualises legacy relational databases as RDF, and the dimensions of Big Data; presents key conceptual aspects and dimensions, challenges, and requirements; and reviews, categorises, and discusses notable approaches and systems.


Visual query formulation Usability Data retrieval Ontology-based data access Big Data 



This research is funded by the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) of the European Commission under Grant Agreement 318338, “Optique”.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ahmet Soylu
    • 1
  • Martin Giese
    • 2
  • Ernesto Jimenez-Ruiz
    • 3
  • Evgeny Kharlamov
    • 3
  • Dmitriy Zheleznyakov
    • 3
  • Ian Horrocks
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Computer Science and Media TechnologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyGjøvikNorway
  2. 2.Department of InformaticsUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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