Semantic Data Model: Definition & Example

Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 16 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems and has a PhD in Information Technology Management. He is an adjunct professor of computer science and computer programming.

Data modeling isn't always about technical terms that only programmers understand. We also need models that can display a data model and its connection to the real world. This lesson will define semantic data models and provide an example.

Semantic Data Model

Imagine that you are developing the next-generation music app, and need to create a robust database and application to store and work with data about topics such as artists, albums, and songs. Before you can ever start plugging data into a database, you'll need a model that both you and your non-techie business partners can understand. If the non-technical folks can understand the model, they may even have ideas of how best to implement the data. They can ask questions and provide feedback. They may even notice connections or relationships that are redundant or unnecessary.

In order to show the relationships between all parts of the music database, we can create a semantic data model, which is a conceptual diagram of the data as it relates to the real world. Before we get into the model, let's look at a simple relationship between an artist and an album. A given artist has a relationship to an album because they record the album. This can be expressed as follows:


Semantic model data example


There is a relationship between the artist and the album. Journey is an artist; an artist records an album; Raised on Radio is an album. As we will see in the semantic, we will use these simple terms to clearly state what is being defined in the model. Here are some of the key phrases you will see in a semantic model (key terms are capitalized)

  • Journey IS AN Artist
  • An Artist RECORDS an Album
  • An Album CONTAINS songs
  • A song MAY CONTAIN lyrics
  • Raised on Radio is an INSTANCE OF an Album (or a TYPE OF)

Now let's look at a more robust model. This type of model can be shown to non-technical leaders.


Semantic model example


In the model, we see that an artist RECORDS an album, an album STORES the artist info, an album HAS A genre, an album CONTAINS one or more songs, and a song CAN CONTAIN lyrics.

Another Perspective: Facts About Objects

Another way to use a semantic model is to show specific facts about certain objects. In defining the rules for our database we've decided to further group our albums by the type of album. The type of album has all the qualities of an album, but it has unique qualities such as it may be shorter or have a different quality of recording. As part of the semantic model, we can display these hierarchical relations.

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