Semantic Web (autumn 2016)

This module is a gentle introduction to the theory and practice of the Semantic Web, an extension of the current Web that provides an easier way to find, share, reuse and combine information. It is based on machine-readable information and builds on XML technology's capability to define customised tagging schemes, RDF's (Resource Description Framework) flexible approach to representing data, the OWL (Web Ontology Language) schema language and SPARQL query language. The Semantic Web provides common formats for the interchange of data (where on the Web there is only an interchange of documents). It also provides a common language for recording how data relates to real world objects, allowing a person or a machine to start off in one database, and then move through an unending set of databases which are connected not by wires but by being about the same thing. Important applications of the Semantic Web technologies include Healthcare (SNOMED CT), Supply Chain Management (Biogen Idec), Media Management (BBC), Data Integration in the Oil & Gas industry (Chevron, Statoil), Web Search and E-commerce.

The aims of this module are to

  1. introduce the theoretical foundations of the Semantic Web, including the standard W3C data, query and ontology languages such as Resource Description Framework (RDF), SPARQL query language, the Web Ontology Language OWL, and the corresponding knowledge representation technologies;
  2. provide the students with practical skills of building ontologies and querying the Web;
  3. overview the current applications of the Semantic Web technologies in health care, media management, and industry.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the module, the student should be able to:
  1. understand fundamental concepts, advantages and limitations of the Semantic Web;
  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;
  5. understand the basics of knowledge representation with description logics.

"I enjoyed the Semantic Web module last term but honestly thought it was unlikely I'd be using my new knowledge in the near future. Ironically I am now working at the Ministry of Sound and part of my job is to build a Radio Station Ontology!" (Craig Greenhouse, 2015)

Lecturer:   Michael Zakharyaschev, Room 161, Main Building, tel: 020 7631 6716, email:

Lectures:  Mondays 14:00-16:00, room 403 Main Building

Labs and tutorials:  Mondays 16:00-17:00, room 403 Main Building (tutor Dr S 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. lecture slides Lab: building an ontology for The Godfather lab slides OWL file
  2. The layered approach to the Semantic Web. XML, the tree model of XML documents, XML Schema. Querying XML documents, XPath. lecture slides XPath tester tutorial Lab: building a pizza ontology lab slides
  3. Resource Description Framework (RDF). RDF Schema. RDF/S semantics. Terse RDF Triple Language Turtle. lecture slides Linked Data exercises with answers
  4. SPARQL Query Language. lecture slides exercises with answers tutorial
  5. Ontology-based data access (OBDA). lecture slides. Tutorial with OBDA platform Ontop.
  6. Requirements for ontology languages. From RDFS to OWL. OWL ontologies. lecture slides Crawling Wikipedia tutorial
  7. RDFS/OWL survival guide Ontology engineering. OWL ontologies in life sciences and industry. lecture slides tutorial
  8. Open vs closed worlds. Reasoning with OWL. lecture slides
  9. Introduction to Description Logic and formal semantics. lecture slides exercises with answers
  10. Reasoning with ABoxes. slides tutorial Exercises with some solutions
  11. Revision. Exercises with solutions Tableau prover Lotrec slides software

Recommended Reading:

Installing Protégé Ontology Editor

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


Issued on 11 December 2016. Submission deadline: 27 January 2017; late submission deadline: 10 February 2017.


Exercises Answers