Even when data repositories exhibit near perfect data quality, users may formulate queries that do not correspond to the information requested. Users’ poor information retrieval performance may arise from either problems understanding of the data models that represent the real world systems, or their query skills. This research focuses on users’ understanding of the data structures, i.e., their ability to map the information request and the data model. The Bunge-Wand-Weber ontology was used to formulate three sets of hypotheses. Two laboratory experiments (one using a small data model and one using a larger data model) tested the effect of ontological clarity on users’ performance when undertaking component, record, and aggregate level tasks. The results indicate for the hypotheses associated with different representations but equivalent semantics that parsimonious data model participants performed better for component level tasks but that ontologically clearer data model participants performed better for record and aggregate level tasks.