Resource Description Framework (RDF) in use

Before the lab


Lab instructions

In this lab you will test various scenarios of using RDF/S data. You will navigate through, query, store and manipulate it from within a Java application. The aim of this lab is to give you a broad perspective on using RDF/S data, without exhaustively going into details. We hope you will be encouraged for independent research and tests.

The lab is divided into sections. You should allow aprox. 10 minutes for each section.

1 SPARQL - demo

    1. analyze and run existing examples.
    2. answer the question: What semantic vocabularies are used in the queries? What are they for?
  1. Go to SPARQLer
    1. check the Force the accept header to text/plain regardless
    2. test available result formats for example queries (JSON output / text output / CSV output / TSV output)
    3. run the Construct query and analyze the result

2 SPARQL queries - basics

  1. In this exercise we will use Twinkle (screenshots)
  2. Run Twinkle
    On Charon: Open Terminal and type:
     $ twinkle 
  3. Test the examples for PeriodicTable and PlanetFeed (Choose File → Open → examples/…)
  4. Execute queries on your foaf file to retrieve :
    • friends who have name and e-mail defined
    • friends who have name and e-mail defined and optional homepage
    • friends who have name and e-mail defined and optional homepage, sorted by name descending


  • You can use the demos from the previous task for reference or this SPARQL editor.
  • Type in the location of your file in the Data URL field (web URL or local path) OR use FROM construct to define your data source, e.g.
PREFIX rdf: <>
PREFIX foaf: <>

    ?x rdf:type foaf:Person . 
    ?x foaf:name ?name

3 SPARQL queries - options

In this exercise use the FOAF files of your friends.

Run Twinkle and execute queries on chosen foaf file to retrive :

  • people whose name starts with 'K'
  • people who are older than 18 years old
  • people whose name starts with 'K' or are older than 18 years old, make search caseinsensitive
  • people having e-mails on server
  • name of people, who have homepage or e-mail on server


  • To view the semantic information and conveniently visualize RDF files install the Tabulator extension to your Web browser.

4 Open Data Sets


  1. Scan the DBPedia introduction identifying the project goals and applications
  2. Test and analyze the queries to the DBPedia from the following websites:
  3. Test various SPARQL clients listed on the DBPedia website.


Answer the question: What are the main limitations of using (querying for information) the RDF datasets such as DBPedia or MusicBrainz?

5 Introduction to Jena

Jena is a Java framework for building Semantic Web applications. It provides a programmatic environment for RDF, RDFS and OWL, SPARQL and includes a rule-based inference engine.

Basic information (from the Introduction to Jena):

  1. Jena adopts the RDF triple model. It is a Java API which can be used to create and manipulate RDF graphs (see the example picture about JohnSmith). example graph. Jena has object classes to represent graphs, resources, properties and literals. The interfaces representing resources, properties and literals are called Resource, Property and Literal respectively. In Jena, a graph is called a model and is represented by the Model interface.
  2. Building the model
    • Creating semantic models is provided by the Jena's ModelFactory class. (e.g. Model model = ModelFactory.createDefaultModel();). Jena contains other implementations of the Model interface, e.g one which uses a relational database: these types of Model are also available from ModelFactory.
    • Model stores Resources. After the resources are created (e.g. Resource johnSmith = model.createResource(personURI);), statements can be made about them and added the model (e.g. johnSmith.addProperty(VCARD.FN, fullName);). in the example below the property is provided by a „constant” class VCARD which holds objects representing all the definitions in the VCARD schema. Jena provides constant classes for other well known schemas, such as RDF and RDF schema themselves, Dublin Core and DAML.
    • The object in the triple may be a literal value or a resource. Note that the vcard:N property takes a resource as its value. Note also that the ellipse representing the compound name has no URI. It is known as an blank Node.
      // some definitions
      String personURI    = "http://somewhere/JohnSmith";
      String givenName    = "John";
      String familyName   = "Smith";
      String fullName     = givenName + " " + familyName;
      // create an empty Model
      Model model = ModelFactory.createDefaultModel();
      // create the resource
      //   and add the properties cascading style
      Resource johnSmith
        = model.createResource(personURI)
               .addProperty(VCARD.FN, fullName)
                                 .addProperty(VCARD.Given, givenName)
                                 .addProperty(VCARD.Family, familyName));
  3. Listing the Statements in the Model
    • An RDF Model is represented as a set of statements. The Jena model interface defines a listStatements() method which returns an StmtIterator, a subtype of Java's Iterator over all the statements in a Model. StmtIterator has a method nextStatement() which returns the next statement from the iterator. The Statement interface provides accessor methods to the subject, predicate and object of a statement.
      // list the statements in the Model
      StmtIterator iter = model.listStatements();
      // print out the predicate, subject and object of each statement
      while (iter.hasNext()) {
          Statement stmt      = iter.nextStatement();  // get next statement
          Resource  subject   = stmt.getSubject();     // get the subject
          Property  predicate = stmt.getPredicate();   // get the predicate
          RDFNode   object    = stmt.getObject();      // get the object
          System.out.print(" " + predicate.toString() + " ");
          if (object instanceof Resource) {
          } else {
              // object is a literal
              System.out.print(" \"" + object.toString() + "\"");
          System.out.println(" .");
  4. Reading/writing the Model
    • Jena has methods for reading and writing RDF as XML. These can be used to save an RDF model to a file and later read it back in again.
    • By default the Model is stored in RDF/XML syntax model.write(System.out);). However, other syntaxes e.g. N-Triple are supported.
    • Reading from file (in the example below we have an inputFileName variable defined, as well as defaultNameSpace, one can you null instead of the namespace in the read method):
      try {
         InputStream myFile = FileManager.get().open( inputFileName );,defaultNameSpace);
      catch (IOException io){
         System.out.println("File Error: " + io.getMessage());
    • Reading from URI (here a namespace is defined as the URI that we use):"",


  1. Download Jena and setup a project (on charon there are eclipse and netbeans available).
  2. Compile and run a sample program (e.g. given above).

6 Reading, Writing, Navigating the model in Jena

  1. Using Jena write a simple translator that will read in an RDF file in one syntax (e.g. RDF/XML) and return the model serialized in another way (e.g. TURTLE).
  2. Read in your FOAF file and list all the Statements present in the Model.
  3. Read a FOAF file form URI and print all the information. Format it neatly. ;-)

7 Using SPARQL with Jena - command line

Jena supports SPARQL via a dedicated module ARQ. In addition to implementing SPARQL, ARQ's query engine can also parse queries expressed in RDQL or its own internal query language.

Currently ARQ is a part of a standar Jena distribution. provides two basic ways of posing SPARQL queries to RDF graphs.

  1. SPARQL queries from the command line
    • To get the ARQ engine to work, you have to set the environmetn variable $ARQROOT to point to the ARQ directory (the downloaded and unpacked Jena directory). Optionaly you may have to modify the access rights for the files in $ARQROOT/bin/ directory and add the bin directory to the execution path.
      $ export ARQROOT=~/your_jena_dir
      $ chmod +rx $ARQROOT/bin/*
      $ export PATH=$PATH:$ARQROOT/bin
      $ sparql
      	Usage: [--data URL] [exprString | --query file]
    • Create a text file (e.g. q1.rq) and construct a SPARQL query in it, e.g.(and this is just an example, be creative, men ;-) )
      PREFIX foaf: <>
      SELECT ?url
      FROM 	<>
      WHERE  {
          ?p foaf:name ?n .
          ?p foaf:homepage ?url .
    • Run the query from the command line, e.g. sparql –query q1.rq

8 Using SPARQL with Jena - java application

Using SPARQL queries within the Java application.

Read the Search RDF data with SPARQL tutorial.

  1. Create your Model by reading in several FOAF files.
  2. Modify the queries so that they will use the information from your model
  3. Create an ASK query for your model: a SPARQL query that returns either „yes” or „no”, e.g. „Does Weronika T. Adrian (WTA) know Krzysztof Kluza (KKL)?”:
    public void queryForExistance() {
    	String queryString =
    		"PREFIX foaf: <> " +
    		"ASK  { ?x foaf:name  \"Weronika T. Adrian (Furmańska)\" ; " +
    		          "foaf:knows  ?y . " +
    		       "?y foaf:name \"Krzysztof Kluza\" . }";
    	Query query = QueryFactory.create(queryString) ;
    	QueryExecution qexec = QueryExecutionFactory.create(query, model);
    	// Now run the query.  ASK queries only return a boolean value.
    	Boolean answer = qexec.execAsk();
    	// Output the result
    	System.out.println("Does WTA know KKL?");
    	if (answer)

If you want to know more

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