The main objective of this thesis is to contribute to the theory of Conceptual Modeling by proposing ontological foundations for structural conceptual models. Conceptual Modeling is a discipline of great importance to several areas in Computer Science. Its main objective is concerned with identifying, analyzing and describing the essential concepts and constraints of a universe of discourse, with the help of a (diagrammatic) modeling language that is based on a set of basic modeling concepts (forming a metamodel). In this thesis, we show how conceptual modeling languages can be evaluated and (re)designed with the purpose of improving their ontological adequacy. In simple terms, ontological adequacy is a measure of how close the models produced using a modeling language are to the situations in the reality they are supposed to represent. The thesis starts by proposing a systematic evaluation method for comparing a metamodel of the concepts underlying a language to a reference ontology of the corresponding domain in reality. The focus of this thesis is on general conceptual modeling languages (as opposed to domain specific ones). Hence, the proposed reference ontology is a foundational (or upper-level) ontology. Moreover, since, it focuses on structural modeling aspects (as opposed to dynamic ones), this foundational ontology is an ontology of objects, their properties and relations, their parts, the roles they play, and the types they instantiate. The proposed ontology was developed by adapting and extending a number of theories coming, primarily, from formal ontology in philosophy, but also from cognitive science and linguistics. Once developed, every subtheory of the ontology is used in the creation of methodological tools (e.g., modeling profiles, guidelines and design patterns). The expressiveness and relevance of these tools are shown throughout the thesis to solve some classical and recurrent conceptual modeling problems. Finally, the thesis demonstrates the applicability and usefulness of both the method and the proposed ontology by analyzing and extending a fragment of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) which deals with the construction of structural conceptual models.
|Award date||27 Oct 2005|
|Place of Publication||Enschede|
|Publication status||Published - 27 Oct 2005|