Rapid prototyping ontologies

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Introduction

Adopting an ontology development methodology for constructing ontologies and making sure that they have gone through the necessary review cycles is very important, especially in the world of academia and in industries that follow rigorous policies around the development of ontologies. One such methodology is highlighted in a previous blog post and identifies a series of steps to follow for successful ontology building.

However, there are instances where the use of similar methodologies would introduce excessive development lead time, making ontology development long-winded in the case of the more straightforward and smaller ontologies. So, the question being explored in this post is:

How can we rapidly prototype an ontology?

 
… In other words, how can we quickly develop an ontology, avoiding the complexities imposed by an ontology development methodology?

Method

One method that I have personally found to be very efficient for that purpose is through sketching out an ontology as a visual diagram and using its basis to model the ontology in a suitable ontology development environment. This was a technique that I applied for developing a knowledge model that explains the basic subject matter of the field of Business Analysis in an e-learning course on Ontologies for Business Analysis.

Some prerequisites for this method to work properly are:

  • Having a fairly good understanding of the subject matter to be modelled.
  • Being able to use graphical constructs to model concepts and their relations.

 
Below are some pictures of how the ontology was sketched out on an A3 sheet of paper as an “IDEF5-ish” graphical representation. The visual representation was then properly modelled in Protégé. The good thing with this approach is that the model you sketch does not need to be the final product at all. For example, you might have sketched an ontology entity as an individual but, at the time of implementation, realise that the entity would be better suited as a class. This approach is flexible enough to allow for quickly reconfiguring your model as you develop it, whilst making the most out of the effort and time available to you.

Sketches of the ontology

business analysis ontology

business analysis ontology

business analysis ontology

business analysis ontology

business analysis ontology

Viewing the ontology in OWLGrEd

business analysis ontology owlgred

business analysis ontology owlgred

business analysis ontology owlgred

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