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Understanding Semantic Web: a conceptual model

Michael Calaresu (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Ali Shiri (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The purpose of this article is to explore and conceptualize the Semantic Web as a term that has been widely mentioned in the literature of library and information science. More specifically, its aim is to shed light on the evolution of the Web and to highlight a previously proposed means of attempting to improve automated manipulation of Web-based data in the context of a rapidly expanding base of both users and digital content.


The conceptual analysis presented in this paper adopts a three-dimensional model for the discussion of Semantic Web. The first dimension focuses on Semantic Web’s basic nature, purpose and history, as well as the current state and limitations of modern search systems and related software agents. The second dimension focuses on critical knowledge structures such as taxonomies, thesauri and ontologies which are understood as fundamental elements in the creation of a Semantic Web architecture. In the third dimension, an alternative conceptual model is proposed, one, which unlike more commonly prevalent Semantic Web models, offers a greater emphasis on describing the proposed structure from an interpretive viewpoint, rather than a technical one. This paper adopts an interpretive, historical and conceptual approach to the notion of the Semantic Web by reviewing the literature and by analyzing the developments associated with the Web over the past three decades. It proposes a simplified conceptual model for easy understanding.


The paper provides a conceptual model of the Semantic Web that encompasses four key strata, namely, the body of human users, the body of software applications facilitating creation and consumption of documents, the body of documents themselves and a proposed layer that would improve automated manipulation of Web-based data by the software applications.

Research limitations/implications

This paper will facilitate a better conceptual understanding of the Semantic Web, and thereby contribute, in a small way, to the larger body of discourse surrounding it. The conceptual model will provide a reference point for education and research purposes.


This paper provides an original analysis of both conceptual and technical aspects of Semantic Web. The proposed conceptual model provides a new perspective on this subject.



Calaresu, M. and Shiri, A. (2015), "Understanding Semantic Web: a conceptual model", Library Review, Vol. 64 No. 1/2, pp. 82-100.



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