Journal of Information Systems Education (JISE)

Volume 24

Volume 24 Number 3, Pages 211-222

Fall 2013


An Experimental Investigation of Complexity in Database Query Formulation Tasks


Gretchen I. Casterella
Leo Vijayasarathy

Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80525, USA

Abstract: Information Technology professionals and other knowledge workers rely on their ability to extract data from organizational databases to respond to business questions and support decision making. Structured query language (SQL) is the standard programming language for querying data in relational databases, and SQL skills are in high demand and are taught in most introductory database courses. We examined students’ performance on query formulation tasks, in an experimental setting which varied the complexity of the query and the ambiguity of the information request. Our results confirm the main effects of query complexity and request ambiguity found in prior studies (Borthick et al. 2001). In addition, we found an interaction effect between complexity and ambiguity, namely that low ambiguity is more important as tasks increase in complexity. We also found that students’ confidence with entity-relationship diagrams corresponds to reduced time spent on query formulation, and their ability to evaluate the accuracy of their queries reduces as query complexity increases. We discuss the implications of these findings with some suggestions for future research.

Keywords: Query language, Database management systems (DBMS), Data modeling

Download this article: JISE - Volume 24 Number 3, Page 211.pdf


Recommended Citation: Casterella, G. I. & Vijayasarathy, L. (2013). An Experimental Investigation of Complexity in Database Query Formulation Tasks. Journal of Information Systems Education, 24(3), pp. 211-222.