Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS)

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Wolcott

Second Advisor

Dr. Martina Greiner

Third Advisor

Dr. Zhengxin Chen


SQL (Structured Query Language) is a standard language to communicate with a relational database system. SQL is a core competency for people in the data management field and is, therefore, a foundational skill taught to users in information systems. This research analyzes users’ mental models while they formulate SQL queries. The purpose of this thesis is to understand the strategies users use. These strategies both reflect and help develop the users’ mental models. This research attempts to discover users' mental models while learning SQL for the purpose of finding better ways to teach SQL skills. This research analyzes data from two subsets of users with two different problem sets. One data set was collected from users who followed the think aloud methodology while they wrote queries or when they were devising the queries. Another data set consisted of student activity log data captured by the database management system as students executed queries. The log data was analyzed to identify patterns of activities, or strategies used, as SQL skills are learned.

Upon analysis of the data, this research offers recommendations for users and instructors. Recommendations help users to better understand the SQL concepts, error messages and the precise meaning of the queries. Recommendations help instructors to develop better ways to teach the material to improve students’ learning processes and how they can be taught more efficiently about the SQL skills to apply in future activities with database systems.

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