Design and evaluation of a consulting system for database design

Solomon Raj Antony, Florida International University


Database design is a difficult problem for non-expert designers. It is desirable to assist such designers during the problem solving process by means of a knowledge based (KB) system. A number of prototype KB systems have been proposed, however there are many shortcomings. Few have incorporated sufficient expertise in modeling relationships, particularly higher order relationships. There has been no empirical study that experimentally tested the effectiveness of any of these KB tools. Problem solving behavior of non-experts, whom the systems were intended to assist, has not been one of the bases for system design. In this project a consulting system for conceptual database design that addresses the above short comings was developed and empirically validated. The system incorporates (a) findings on why non-experts commit errors and (b) heuristics for modeling relationships. Two approaches to knowledge base implementation--system restrictiveness and decisional guidance--were used and compared in this project. The Restrictive approach is proscriptive and limits the designer's choices at various design phases by forcing him/her to follow a specific design path. The Guidance system approach which is less restrictive, provides context specific, informative and suggestive guidance throughout the design process. The main objectives of the study are to evaluate (1) whether the knowledge-based system is more effective than a system without the knowledge-base and (2) which knowledge implementation--restrictive or guidance--strategy is more effective. To evaluate the effectiveness of the knowledge base itself, the two systems were compared with a system that does not incorporate the expertise (Control). The experimental procedure involved the student subjects solving a task without using the system (pre-treatment task) and another task using one of the three systems (experimental task). The experimental task scores of those subjects who performed satisfactorily in the pre-treatment task were analyzed. Results are (1) The knowledge based approach to database design support lead to more accurate solutions than the control system; (2) No significant difference between the two KB approaches; (3) Guidance approach led to best performance; and (4) The subjects perceived the Restrictive system easier to use than the Guidance system.

Subject Area

Management|Computer science

Recommended Citation

Antony, Solomon Raj, "Design and evaluation of a consulting system for database design" (1997). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9805206.