Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Information Systems and Technology


This research investigates the development of an ontology-based search framework to assist inexperienced research students who are novice researchers in identifying research topics. The cohort of inexperienced research students face problems of limited research experience in conducting search queries, which often result in obtaining irrelevant search results. Other problems encountered by novice researchers include having difficulty in using the right keyword to search; not having any research ideas when conducting searches; irrelevant results returned; and the need to make multiple queries in a multi-language context. Advancements in the Semantic Web and ontology presents an opportunity to help novice researchers in overcoming the difficulties as described above. The database ontology can be mapped from the existing relational database to enable search queries to be conducted in a semantic context. This research proposes a semantic search approach that applies an ontology-based framework to improve the search process. The rationale behind the approach is based on the human perception of organising concepts in a proposed domain by transforming the structure of the concept into a mind-map. The elements of a mind-map are arranged according to major/broad concepts and can be narrowed down to the minor/specific elements of hierarchical structure. This approach represents a human thinking process in categorising categories-subcategories items in real life applications. Thus, a mind-map can be applied to construct search options in the search process. A system prototype has been developed to demonstrate the applicability of the proposed ontology-based approach. A survey has been conducted to evaluate the prototype and results have indicated that respondents found this approach to be useful in the search process. The contributions of the proposed approach are two-fold. Firstly users can formulate the query based on concepts and inter-relationships of concepts in the domain knowledge using a mind-map. Secondly the ontology-based approach improves the information retrieval process.