MSc ACS: Computer Security

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Ontology Engineering for the Semantic Web

Unit code COMP62342
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Computer Science
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Ontologies provide rich, expressive vocabularies of terms describing a domain (e.g. medicine, astronomy, music etc.) They are key to development of the next generation of the Web, support a number of activities such as information exchange, data integration and search. This unit will provide an introduction to OWL, a standardised language for the representation of ontologies. It will cover the syntax and semantics of the language; authoring ontologies (including the use of standard design patterns); the use of reasoning and the use of ontologies in applications.



A knowledge of basic logic; Java programming


The unit will provide students with a theoretical and practical understanding of leading edge solutions for the Semantic Web. It will introduce students to the W3C standard Web Ontology Language, OWL, and its underlying Description Logics. It will provide students with experience using a set of established patterns for developing OWL ontologies and help them to learn to avoid the major pitfalls in using OWL. It will give them an opportunity to become familiar with a widely used environment for developing and an API for applying OWL ontologies, and making use of reasoning services accessible via both.

Learning outcomes

  • Explain the role of ontology languages in applications, in particular the W3C Recommendations OWL and SKOS;   

  • Describe the syntax and semantics of OWL along with its core reasoning problems;

  • Describe the decision procedures that underpin the use of reasoning in ontology languages;   

  • Create an ontology for a particular domain to enhance an application;   

  • Design and build ontologies in OWL using the de facto standard editor, Protege,

  • Design and implement a simple ontology-based system via the OWL API.

  • Apply patterns in the design of ontologies.   

  • Evaluate the design of ontologies through the application of competency questions.



  • Introduction to Knowledge Representation and the Semantic Web
  • Introduction to the Web Ontology Language OWL
  • Description logics and classifiers
  • Description Logics Syntax, Semantics, and reasoning problems
  • Methods for developing and evaluating ontologies.
  • Common problems and patterns in ontology development
  • Application development using the OWL API

Lab work

  • Introduction to Protege and OWL including advanced tutorial
  • Special problems of representation and reasoning in OWL
  • Practical individual development project using Java
  • Critique/comment on implemented ontologies on the Web

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and workshops

1 day per week (5 weeks)

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Problem solving

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

* In-class tests and questionnaires to support students in monitoring their understanding.
* Weekly assignments via Blackboard.
* Weekly practical lab sessions with demonstrator assistance.

Recommended reading

COMP60421 reading list can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 15
Independent study hours
Independent study 113

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sean Bechhofer Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Course unit materials

Links to course unit teaching materials can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.

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