Semantic Technologies (autumn 2018)

This module is a gentle introduction to Semantic Technologies that provide easier ways to find, share, reuse and combine information. Semantic Technologies define and link data on the Web or within an enterprise by developing languages to express rich, self-describing interrelations of data in a form that machines can process. They provide an abstraction layer above existing information technologies that connects data, content and processes. Semantic Technology standards developed by W3C include Applications of Semantic Technologies range from Linked Data, Wikidata, healthcare, supply chain management, publishing and media management to data integration in industry and public sector.

The aims of this module are to

  1. introduce the theoretical foundations of Semantic Technologies, including the languages RDF/S, SPARQL, the Web Ontology Language OWL
  2. provide the students with practical skills of modelling data using RDF/S, querying RDF triplestores, and building ontologies
  3. overview the current applications of Semantic Technologies in health care, media management, and industry
  4. demonstrate a few standard algorithms for classification of concepts in ontologies

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the module, the student should be able to:
  1. understand fundamental concepts, advantages and limitations of Semantic Technologies;
  2. understand and use the RDF framework and associated technologies such as RDFa and SPARQL;
  3. understand and use the ontology language OWL 2 and its profiles;
  4. understand the principles of ontology-based data access and integration;
  5. understand the basics of knowledge representation with description logics.

Lecturer:   Michael Zakharyaschev, Room 265, Main Building, tel: 020 7631 6716, email:

Lectures:  Mondays 14:00-16:00, room 407 Main Building

Labs and tutorials:  Mondays 16:00-17:00, room 407 Main Building (tutor Mr Abul Hasan)

If you have questions about the module, please send them by email; or email for an appointment.

Module Structure and Assessment


The aims of the coursework are (i) to give you experience of using the languages, technologies and tools introduced in the lectures as well as (ii) to prepare you for the examination. The questions in the coursework are similar to those discussed in the tutorials. To submit the completed assignment, you should The submitted work MUST have a page entitled "Academic Declaration" by the author, which certifies that the author has read and understood the sections on plagiarism in the document that describes the College's Policy on assessment offences. Confirm that the work is your own, with the work of others fully acknowledged. Submissions must also be accompanied by a declaration giving us permission to submit your report to the plagiarism testing database that the College is using. Reports without a Declaration form are not considered as completed assignments and are not marked. The Academic Declaration should read as follows: "I have read and understood the sections of plagiarism in the College Policy on assessment offences and confirm that the work is my own, with the work of others clearly acknowledged. I give my permission to submit my report to the plagiarism testing database that the College is using and test it using plagiarism detection software, search engines or meta-searching software."


MSc CW and BSc CW issued on 9 December 2018. Submission deadline: 21 January 2019; late submission deadline: 28 January 2019.

The maximum mark one can get for a late submission is 50%. If you believe you have good cause to be excused the penalty for late submission, you must make a written request using a mitigating circumstances application form and attach any evidence. Your form should be handed in or emailed to the MSc Programme Administrator as soon as possible, but not more than 10 days after the cut-off deadline. The Department will not accept coursework after this date. As soon as you know that you will not be able to meet the deadline, it will be useful for you to inform the module lecturer and the MSc Programme Director.
For further details concerning the rules and regulations consult College Regulations and Mitigating Circumstances.

Syllabus, lecture and lab slides, tutorials, and exercises

  1. Introduction to the module. Ontologies in (Computer) Science. Knowledge graphs. Wikidata. Lecture slides
    Lab: building a Don Corleone family ontology. Lab slides OWL file
  2. Is XML a semantic technology? The tree model of XML documents, XML Schema. Querying XML documents with XPath. JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). Lecture slides
    Lab: querying XML with XPath. Lab slides
    Lab: building a pizza ontology. Lab slides OWL file (If you missed this or the previous lab session, have a look at this.)
  3. Resource Description Framework (RDF). RDF Schema. RDF/S semantics. Terse RDF Triple Language Turtle. Lecture slides You can also read the Wikipedia article
    Lab: producing RDF triples: by hand, from tables, from natural texts. Answers.
  4. RDF query Language SPARQL. Lecture slides
    Lab: Querying RDF triplestores: DBpedia exercise 1, German cities exercise 2 (answers). More exercises. Bonus: setting up and querying an Apache Fuseki triplestore (step-by-step instructions). Jena Fuseki Server cities.ttl.
  5. Introduction to ontology-based data access (OBDA). OBDA platform Ontop. Lecture slides
    Lab: setting up ontology-based access to the IMDB database. Exercises Answers
  6. Requirements for ontology languages. From RDFS to OWL. OWL ontologies. Lecture slides and tutorial Ontology
  7. Ontology engineering. OWL ontologies in life sciences and industry. Lab: designing a travel agent's ontology. Lecture slides Lab slides
  8. Open vs closed worlds. Reasoning with OWL. Lecture slides and lab
  9. OWL as Description Logic. Lecture slides Exercises Solutions
  10. Revision exercises with model answers

Recommended Reading:

Installing Protégé Ontology Editor

The Protégé Ontology Editor can be downloaded from This file is a standard installation program.