Improving Engineering Information Access and Knowledge Discovery through Model-Based Information Navigation

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


An organisation's data, information, and knowledge is widely considered to be one of its greatest assets. As such, the capture, storage and dissemination of this asset is the focus of both academic and organisational efforts. This is true at the Airbus Group, the industrial partner of this thesis. Their Knowledge Management team invests in state-of-the-art tools and techniques, and actively participates in research in a bid to maximise their organisation's reuse of knowledge and ultimately their competitiveness.

A successful knowledge management strategy creates a knowledgeable and wise workforce that ultimately benefits both the individual and the organisation. The dissemination of information and knowledge such that it is easily and readily accessible is one key aspect within such a strategy. Search engines are a typical means for information and knowledge dissemination yet, unlike the Internet, search within organisations (intranet or enterprise search) is frequently found lacking. This thesis contributes to this area of knowledge management.

Research in the field of enterprise search has been shown to improve search through the application of context to expand search queries. The novel approach taken in this thesis takes this context and applies it visually, moving the search for information away from a text-based user interface towards a user interface that reflects the function and form of the product. The approach: model-based information navigation, is based on the premise that leveraging the visual and functional nature of engineers through a model-based user interface can improve information access and knowledge discovery.

From the perspectives of information visualisation, engineering information management, product life-cycle management, and building information modelling, this thesis contributes through:

The development of techniques that enable documents to be indexed against the product structure
The development of techniques for navigation within engineering three-dimensional virtual environments
The design of a range visual information object for the display of information within engineering three-dimensional virtual environments
The determination of the affordance of a model-based approach to information navigation

This thesis presents the development of a framework for model-based information navigation: a novel approach to finding information that places a three-dimensional representation of the product at the heart of searching document collections.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorBen J Hicks (Supervisor) & Chris M Snider (Supervisor)

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