Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor's Name

Dinesh Batra

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Joyce Elam

Third Advisor's Name

Paul Hart

Fourth Advisor's Name

Radhika Santhanam

Date of Defense



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. Although a number of prototype KB systems have been proposed, there are many shortcomings. Firstly, few have incorporated sufficient expertise in modeling relationships, particularly higher order relationships. Secondly, there does not seem to be any published empirical study that experimentally tested the effectiveness of any of these KB tools. Thirdly, 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, called CODA, for conceptual database design that addresses the above short comings was developed and empirically validated. More specifically, the CODA system incorporates (a) findings on why non-experts commit errors and (b) heuristics for modeling relationships. Two approaches to knowledge base implementation were used and compared in this project, namely system restrictiveness and decisional guidance (Silver 1990). The Restrictive system uses a proscriptive approach 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, involves providing context specific, informative and suggestive guidance throughout the design process. Both the approaches would prevent erroneous design decisions. The main objectives of the study are to evaluate (1) whether the knowledge-based system is more effective than the system without a knowledge-base and (2) which approach to knowledge implementation - whether Restrictive or Guidance - is more effective. To evaluate the effectiveness of the knowledge base itself, the systems were compared with a system that does not incorporate the expertise (Control).

An experimental procedure using student subjects was used to test the effectiveness of the systems. The subjects solved a task without using the system (pre-treatment task) and another task using one of the three systems, viz. Control, Guidance or Restrictive (experimental task). Analysis of experimental task scores of those subjects who performed satisfactorily in the pre-treatment task revealed that the knowledge based approach to database design support lead to more accurate solutions than the control system. Among the two KB approaches, Guidance approach was found to lead to better performance when compared to the Control system. It was found that the subjects perceived the Restrictive system easier to use than the Guidance system.





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