Semantic Technologies (autumn 2017)

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 IT technologies that connects data, content and processes. Semantic Technology standards developed by W3C include Applications of Semantic Technologies range from Linked Data, Wikidata, Healthcare and Pharma Industry, Supply Chain Management, Publishing and Media Management, Web Search and E-commerce to Data Integration in the Oil & Gas industry.

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 161, Main Building, tel: 020 7631 6716, email:

Lectures:  Fridays 18:00-20:00, room 403 Main Building

Labs and tutorials:  Fridays 20:00-21:00, room 403 Main Building (tutor Dr Stanislav Kikot)

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

Module Structure and Assessment

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: 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
    Lab: producing RDF triples: by hand, from tables, from natural texts.
  4. RDF query Language SPARQL. Lecture slides
  5. Querying RDF triplestores. Lab: setting up and querying Apache Jena triplestore.
  6. Ontology-based data access (OBDA). OBDA platform Ontop. Lab: setting up ontology-based access to the IMDB database.
  7. Requirements for ontology languages. From RDFS to OWL. OWL ontologies.
  8. Ontology engineering. OWL ontologies in life sciences and industry. Lab: designing a travel agent's ontology.
  9. Open vs closed worlds. Reasoning with OWL. Introduction to Description Logic and formal semantics.

Recommended Reading:

Installing Protégé Ontology Editor

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