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A Graphical, Database-Querying Interface for Casual, Naive Computer Users

Description: This research is concerned with some aspects of the retrieval of information from database systems by casual, naive computer users. A "casual user" is defined as an individual who only wishes to execute queries perhaps once or twice a month, and a "naive user" is someone who has little or no expertise in operating a computer and, more specifically for the purposes of this study, is not practiced at querying a database. The research initially focuses on a specific group of casual, naive users, namely a group of clinicians, and analyzes their characteristics as they pertain to the retrieval of information from a computer database. The characteristics thus elicited are then used to create the requirements for a database interface that would, potentially, be acceptable to this group. An interface having the desired requirements is then proposed. This interface consists, from a user's perspective, of three basic components. A graphical model gives a picture of the database structure. Windows give the ability to view different areas of the database, physically group together items that come under one logical heading and provide the user with immediate access to the data item names used by the system. Finally, a natural language query language provides a means of entering a query in a syntax (that of ordinary English) which is familiar to the user. The graphical model is a logical abstraction of the database. Unlike other database interfaces, it is not constrained by the model (relational, hierarchical, network) underlying the database management system, with the one caveat that the graphical model should not imply any connections which cannot be supported by the management system. Versions of the interface are implemented on both eight-bit and sixteen-bit microcomputers, and testing is conducted in order to validate the acceptability of the interface and to discover the ...
Date: August 1985
Creator: Burgess, Clifford G. (Clifford Grenville)
Partner: UNT Libraries