Model-based information navigation for engineering documents

David Jones, Chris Snider, Jason Matthews, Jason Yon, Jeff Barrie, Kevin Robinson, Ben Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)


Engineering and the manner in which engineers think is largely visual and functional, and yet engineers are typically provided with search engines that are text-based. While software based on a visual and functional ethos exist (CAD for example), when searching for information engineers are still required to enter a text query into a search box. This process holds potential incompatibilities both with the nature of the data (i.e. 3D models) and with the way in which engineers think and work. Consequentially, the proposition tested in this paper is that a model-based approach to information access, i.e. a representation of an organisations information around a model of an artefact i.e. CAD model, can improve engineering information retrieval. In an A-B test with a traditional text-based search engine, and using study questions derived from real-world information seeking scenarios based on the activities of a world-leading aircraft manufacturer, the results presented in this paper suggest that there is merit to such an approach. Specifically, this paper shows that there is no significant difference in time to complete a search between a model-based and text-based interfaces in spite of the addition of a new stage in the search process (navigating a 3D model); that the system structure of the model-based interface allows for non-text based documents to be indexed, making up for the inherent limitations in traditional text-based search; and that participants enjoy using the model-based interface and find it intuitive, easy and simple to use. Further, this paper also finds that those with more experience/familiar with the product structure and those in managerial positions are more likely to find information using a model-based interface that those who are not, who perform better using a text-based interface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103254
JournalComputers in Industry
Early online date2 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2020


  • Engineering information management
  • Information retrieval
  • Knowledge management
  • Model-based engineering
  • Model-based information navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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