Creating an expert system knowledge base: steps 1-3

Creating an expert system’s knowledge base is the heart of knowledge engineering. This description covers the first 3 steps of the process at a high level.


Knowledge engineers require orientation to the processes and methodologies that will be used to create the knowledge base for the particular system under construction.

Subject matter experts also require orientation to the idea of expert systems, to the knowledge engineering process and to their role in the creation of the knowledge base.

A presentation covering the various activities and roles, along with sample expert systems in operation are all suitable for orientation purposes.

Domain Investigation

Some early investigation of the domain will improve the actual content creation process.

User experience activities like surveys, focus groups or observations carried out in experts’ offices or call centres will improve the knowledge engineer’s understanding of the way non-experts and experts interact in the domain.

Research activities can further improve the knowledge engineer’s familiarity with the domain. This research should remain relatively light, and can include a general survey of mainstream literature or other sources of recorded knowledge.

During the survey work, the knowledge engineer can create a list of existing resources in case they are needed later in the knowledge engineering process.

The aim of this investigation is not to turn knowledge engineers into experts or reduce the reliance on subject matter experts. It’s more of a process of familiarization to improve the knowledge engineering effort downstream.


In the scoping stage, knowledge engineers and subject matter experts work to develop a very precise working definition of the scope of the knowledge base. Anything declared to be “in scope” must be knowledge engineered. Anything “out of scope” must not be knowledge engineered.

This definition of scoping may sound simple. But it can be difficult in practice. Domain knowledge is intangible. It also tends to be un-ordered. It flows from many sources in many directions. During the knowledge engineering process, it will have to be converted into very concrete, ordered, linear logic-based rules.

The working definition of the knowledge base’s scope will determine what does and doesn’t need to be converted into the knowledge base’s rules.

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