An analytical evaluation of NIAM'S grammar for conceptual schema diagrams

Ron Weber, Yanchun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Nijssen's Information Analysis Method (NIAM) provides a powerful grammar for generating conceptual schema diagrams. We evaluate this grammar systematically using an ontological model proposed by Bunge, Wand and Weber. Our analysis shows NIAM'S grammar has many desirable features. Nevertheless, we conclude it is deficient in three respects. First, we argue that construct overload occurs in NIAM'S grammar. Multiple real-world features are represented by the same grammatical construct in NIAM. As a result, we predict users of NIAM will sometimes be confused about which characteristics of the real world are being represented by NIAM'S overloaded grammatical constructs. Second, we argue that construct redundancy occurs in NIAM. Multiple grammatical constructs can be used to represent the same real-world feature. As a result, we predict users of NIAM will choose to employ only one of the grammatical constructs provided to represent a particular real-world feature. Alternatively, they will equivocate in their choice of a grammatical construct and thus undermine their effectiveness and efficiency in using NIAM. Third, we argue NIAM has construct deficit. Some ontological constructs have no corresponding grammatical construct in NIAM. As a result, we predict users of NIAM will employ other grammars to represent real-world features that cannot be represented by NIAM'S grammar. We predict that using multiple grammars to represent real-world features, however, will evoke other problems associated with attaining consistent representations among the scripts generated via the grammars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-170
Number of pages24
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • IS design
  • IS development
  • IS grammars
  • Ontology
  • Real-world modelling

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