Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Since the 1970s, many approaches to representing domains have been suggested. Each approach maintains the assumption that the information about the objects represented in the information system (IS) is specified and verified by domain experts and potential users. Yet, as more IS are developed to support a larger diversity of users such as customers, suppliers, and members of the general public (e.g., in the case of many multiuser online systems), analysts can no longer rely on a stable single group of people for the complete specification of domains; therefore, prior research has questioned the efficacy of conceptual modeling in these heterogeneous settings. This paper aims to address this problem by providing theoretical foundations rooted in psychology research supporting the existence and importance of special classes that are termed basic-level categories. Based on this research, we formulate principles for identifying basic classes in a domain. These classes can guide conceptual modeling, database design, and user interface development in a wide variety of traditional and emergent domains.