Querying through a user interface

James F. Terwilliger, Lois M.L. Delcambre, Judith Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In contrast to a traditional setting where users express queries against the database schema, we assert that the semantics of data can often be understood by viewing the data in the context of the user interface (UI) of the software tool used to enter the data. That is, we believe that users will understand the data in a database by seeing the labels, drop-down menus, tool tips, or other help text that are built into the user interface. Our goal is to allow domain experts with little technical skill to understand and query data. In this paper, we present our GUi As View (Guava) framework and describe how we use forms-based UIs to generate a conceptual model that represents the information in the user interface. We then describe how we generate a query interface from the conceptual model. We characterize the resulting query language using a subset of the relational algebra. Since most application developers want to craft a physical database to meet desired performance needs, we present here a transformation channel that can be configured by instantiating one or more of our transformation operators. The channel, once configured, automatically transforms queries from our query interface into queries that address the underlying physical database and delivers query results that conform to our query interface. In this paper, we define and formalize our database transformation operators. The contributions of this paper are that first, we demonstrate the feasibility of creating a query interface based directly on the user interface and second, we introduce a general purpose database transformation channel that will likely shorten the application development process and increase the quality of the software by automatically generating software artifacts that are often made manually and are prone to errors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)774-794
Number of pages21
JournalData and Knowledge Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Query interface
  • Schematic heterogeneity
  • User interface
  • View updates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems and Management


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