What is SPARQL?

SPARQL is a recursive acronym for "SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language," which is described by a set of specifications from the W3C. SPARQL is a semantic language for databases used to retrieve and manipulate RDF data. It is recognized as one of the key technologies of the semantic web due to its flexibility as well as ease of joining complex data structures and detecting intricate patterns in data. SPARQL is the query language upon which the data.world platform is based.

Unlike SQL for mainstream relational databases, SPARQL for graph-oriented databases has yet to gain mainstream popularity, despite the benefits of implementing graph-oriented databases for complex systems of data. Due to the standardization of relational databases, data users are required to know the entire structure of their data to make useful connections between datasets, which creates barriers to entry for inexperienced data users or those exploring new data in real-time. Conversely, the RDF data model with SPARQL is a much more accessible, exploratory paradigm and does not require knowledge of the data schema to make useful joins between datasets. It is for this reason, in addition to shareability, that data.world has based its system in RDF and SPARQL.

Why we made this tutorial

data.world aims to make data more open and shareable, so we designed the data.world platform to operate on the linked data model. Despite the numerous benefits of turning your open data into linked data, RDF, SPARQL, and other semantic technologies are unfamiliar to most data users; in fact, many users will use SPARQL for the first time through data.world. Additionally, a review of existing SPARQL trainings yielded very few materials outside of official documentation specs and technically dense class materials and textbooks. We therefore quickly saw the need to provide effective instruction in data.world's query language to data users of all experience levels.

What you'll get out of it

This focus of this tutorial's main section (the primer) is to get you up-to-speed on SPARQL as quickly as possible so you can use it to retrieve data from a wide variety of public and private datasets. You will then be able to write your own SPARQL queries to discover, prep, and collaborate on the huge amount of linked data available on data.world.

Additionally, this tutorial will contain advanced tutorials and appendices further detailing SPARQL's various functions and features that may come in handy while writing queries.

Next Section: Tutorial Structure

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