Monday, October 20, 2014

The seach for serendipity

During the final days of working on the first draft of my DBA literature review (that is, last Friday), I found two papers which initially seemed interesting but of doubtful relevance. One [1], a scholarly paper on the subject of serendipity, was downloaded just for the fun of reading the paper. The authors describe serendipity as "making discoveries by accident and sagacity of things which one is not on quest of” [is there not a redundant 'of' in that definition?]. This subject has absolutely nothing to do with my research, but it's interesting, as I've noticed that frequently good ideas seem to come from random events.

The second paper is entitled "Cognitive style factors affecting database query performance" [2], and of course was intended for the section on cognitive style. The paper discusses how cognitive style affects the accuracy of SQL statements; an example appears on page 260
This isn't quite the syntax which the authors use as they neglected to use table identifiers for certain fields. As written, one can see that this statement uses implicit joins (otherwise known as SQL-89 syntax) as opposed to the clearer explicit join (aka SQL-92 syntax); see here for further discussion of this topic. Looking at it now, there is no need whatsoever to include the ITEMSB table in the query. But I digress.

At first, I thought that I would write a few lines about the paper, stating that Priority hides SQL from the end users ("I wouldn't know an SQL statement even if it bit me in the finger") thus awarding the paper a very low significance, but it suddenly struck me that if I ignore the SQL part and show how the research described in the paper examines how people solve database problems at work ("show all the clients who didn't purchase anything in 2014"), then the paper has high relevance. I wrote about this before, when someone needed data about products which could only be retrieved by accessing three different screens. The cognitive style will play an important part in how the data is retrieved and how accurate it is. Of course, I wrote a program/developed a report (using SQL) to do the work, so that users will be able to access accurate data whatever their cognitive style. In the end, I wrote nearly two pages about this paper which suddenly became extremely relevant.

I see that my writing style has been strongly influenced by the literature review; I even include references.

[1] Foster A.E. and Ellis D., (2014), "Serendipity and its study", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 70(6), 1015 - 1038
[2] Bowen, P. L., Ferguson, C. B., Lehmann, T. H. and Rohde, F. H. (2003): "Cognitive style factors affecting database query performance", International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 4(4), 251-273.

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