Is use of optional attributes and associations in conceptual modeling always problematic? Theory and empirical tests

Andrew Burton-Jones, Roger Clarke, Kate Lazarenko, Ron Weber

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Prior research has argued that use of optional properties in conceptual models results in loss of information about the semantics of the domains represented by the models. Empirical research undertaken to date supports this argument. Nevertheless, no systematic analysis has been done of whether use of optional properties is always problematic. Furthermore, prior empirical research might have deliberately or unwittingly employed models where use of optionality always causes problems. Accordingly, we examine analytically whether use of optional properties is always problematic. We employ our analytical results to inform the design of an experiment where we systematically examined the impact of optionality on users' ability to understand domains represented by different types of conceptual models. We found evidence that use of optionality undermines users' ability to understand the domain represented by a model but that this effect weakens when use of mandatory properties to replace optional properties leads to more-complex models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of 33rd International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2012)
    Subtitle of host publication16-19 December 2012, Orlando, Florida, USA
    Place of PublicationAtlanta, Georgia
    PublisherAssociation for Information Systems
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9780615718439
    ISBN (Print)9781627486040
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    EventInternational Conference on Information Systems 2012 - Orlando, United States of America
    Duration: 16 Dec 201219 Dec 2012
    Conference number: 33rd (Proceedings)


    ConferenceInternational Conference on Information Systems 2012
    Abbreviated titleICIS 2012
    Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
    Internet address


    • Cognition/cognitive science
    • Conceptual modeling
    • Human factors
    • Ontology

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