A comparison of the cognitive difficulties posed by SPARQL query constructs

Warren, Paul and Mulholland, Paul (2020). A comparison of the cognitive difficulties posed by SPARQL query constructs. In: Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management. EKAW 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 12387 (Keet, C. M. and Dumontier, M. eds.), Springer, Cham.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61244-3_1

URL: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-03...


This study investigated difficulties in the comprehension of SPARQL. In particular, it compared the declarative and navigational styles present in the language, and various operators used in SPARQL property paths. The study involved participants selecting possible answers given a SPARQL query and knowledgebase. In general, no significant differences were found in terms of the response time and accuracy with which participants could answer questions expressed in either a declarative or navigational form. However, UNION did take significantly longer to comprehend than both braces and verti- cal line in property paths; with braces being faster than vertical line. Inversion and negated property paths both proved difficult, with their combination being very difficult indeed. Questions involving MINUS were answered more accu- rately than those involving negation in property paths, in particular where pred- icates were inverted. Both involve negation, but the semantics are different. With the MINUS questions, negation and inversion can be considered separate- ly; with property paths, negation and inversion need to be considered together. Participants generally expressed a preference for data represented graphically, and this preference was significantly correlated with accuracy of comprehen- sion. Implications for the design and use of query languages are discussed.

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