Eliciting People’s Conceptual Models of Activities and Systems

in International Journal of Conceptual Structures and Smart Applications, Journal article


People using computer systems are required to work with the concepts implemented by system developers. If there is a poor fit between system concepts and users' pre-existing conceptualisation of domain and task, this places a high workload on the user as they translate between their own conceptualisation and that imposed by the system. The focus of this paper is on how to identify users' conceptualisations of a domain - ideally, prior to system implementation. For this, it is necessary to gather verbal data from people that allows them to articulate their conceptual models in ways that are not overly constrained by existing devices but allows them to articulate taken-for-granted knowledge. Possible study types include semi-structured interviews, contextual inquiry interviews and think-aloud protocols. The authors discuss how to design a study, covering choosing between different kinds of study, detailed planning of questions and tasks, data gathering, and preliminary data analysis.