Research & Publications
Understanding Conceptual Schemas: Exploring the Role of Application and IS Domain Knowledge
2006, Information Systems Research
Vijay Khatri, Ramesh Venkataraman, I. Vessey, P. Clay, S. J. Park
Although information systems (IS) problem solving involves knowledge of both the IS and application
domains, little attention has been paid to the role of application domain knowledge. In this study, which is
set in the context of conceptual modeling, we examine the effects of both IS and application domain knowledge
on different types of schema understanding tasks: syntactic and semantic comprehension tasks and schema-based
problem-solving tasks. Our thesis was that while IS domain knowledge is important in solving all such tasks, the
role of application domain knowledge is contingent upon the type of understanding task under investigation.
We use the theory of cognitive fit to establish theoretical differences in the role of application domain knowledge
among the different types of schema understanding tasks. We hypothesize that application domain knowledge
does not influence the solution of syntactic and semantic comprehension tasks for which cognitive fit exists, but
does influence the solution of schema-based problem-solving tasks for which cognitive fit does not exist.
To assess performance on different types of conceptual schema understanding tasks, we conducted a laboratory
experiment in which participants with high- and low-IS domain knowledge responded to two equivalent
conceptual schemas that represented high and low levels of application knowledge (familiar and unfamiliar
application domains). As expected, we found that IS domain knowledge is important in the solution of all types
of conceptual schema understanding tasks in both familiar and unfamiliar applications domains, and that the
effect of application domain knowledge is contingent on task type. Our findings for the EER model were similar
to those for the ER model. Given the differential effects of application domain knowledge on different types
of tasks, this study highlights the importance of considering more than one application domain in designing
future studies on conceptual modeling.
Khatri, V., V. Ramesh, I. Vessey, P. Clay and S. J. Park (2006), “Understanding Conceptual Schemas: Exploring the Role of Application and IS Domain Knowledge,” Information Systems Research, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 81-99.