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Completed research project

Title / Titel Talking to the Semantic Web: Query Interfaces to Ontologies for the Rest of Us
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung The Semantic Web presents the vision of a distributed, dynamically growing knowledge base founded on formal logic. Common users, however, seem to have problems even with the simplest Boolean expression. So how can we help users to query a web of logic that they do not seem to understand? An often proposed solution to address this problem is the use of natural language for knowledge specification and querying. The development of Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools, however, requires computationally intensive algorithms relying on large amounts of background knowledge making the tools highly domain-dependant and virtually inapplicable to new domains or applications.

This project proposes to break the dichotomy between full Natural Language Interfaces (NLIs) and formal query approaches. It argues that query interfaces should impose some structure on the user’s input to guide the entry but not overly restrict the user with an excessively formalistic language. Specifically, we propose to break the dichotomy between full NLIs and formal approaches and hypothesize that the best solutions for the casual and occasional user (in contrast to expert users) lie between the freedom of a full NLI and the structuredness of a formal query language.

So far, we developed two interfaces: Ginseng and SWAT. Both interfaces allow users to formulate queries in a language akin to full English. We have shown that these kinds of interfaces are simple to use and provide superior retrieval performance to traditional logic-based approaches when used by a casual user (Ginseng: average precision 92.8%, average recall 98.4%; SWAT: 100% precision, 90% recall).
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Keywords / Suchbegriffe semantic web, data base, user interface, human computer interaction, natural language processing
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Abraham Bernstein, PhD (Project Leader)  
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Universität Zürich (position pursuing an academic career), SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung)
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Apr 2006 to May 2008