Query Previews in Networked Information Systems

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In a networked information system, there are three major obstacles facing users in a querying process: network performance, data volume and data complexity. In order to overcome these obstacles, we propose a two-phase approach of dynamic query formulation by volume preview. The two phases are the Query Preview andQuery Refinement. In the Query Preview phase, users formulate an initial query by selecting desired attribute values. The volume of matching data sets is shown graphically on Query bars which aid users to rapidly eliminate undesired data sets, and focus on a manageable number of relevant data sets. Query previews also prevent wasted steps by eliminating zero-hit queries. When the estimated number of data sets is low enough, the initial query is submitted to the network, which returns the metadata of the data sets for further refinement in the Query Refinement phase. The two-phase approach to query formulation overcomes slow network performance, and reduces the data volume and data complexity problems. This approach is especially appropriate for users who prefer the exploratory method to discover data patterns and exceptions during the query formulation process. Using this approach, we have developed dynamic query user interfaces to allow users to formulate their queries across a networked environment.