Eliciting and describing users' models of computer systems

Sasse, Martina Angela (1997). Eliciting and describing users' models of computer systems. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The topic of this thesis is users' models: the representations users may form of the computer system which they are interacting with. It has been proposed that user interfaces which support the construction of appropriate users' models facilitate learning and use of computer systems. Users' models have been a topic of research in human-computer interaction (HCI) since 1984, but to date, no knowledge exists which could be applied by designers of computer systems. The aim of the thesis is to address this problem and contribute to the development of an integrated and applicable body of knowledge on users' models.

The thesis commences with an examination of the history and current state of the discipline of human-computer interaction to establish the context and determine the appropriate methods for conducting research on users' models. Since mental representations and mental models originate from the related disciplines of psychology and cognitive science, the review of the literature starts with an outline of the relevant theories, followed by a review of the theoretical and empirical work to date on users' model in HCI. The review concludes that more exploratory empirical work is required to obtain data from which evidence for, and descriptions of, users' models could be derived; however, suitable methods for eliciting and describing users' models have to be devised first.

The second part of the thesis describes a series of five observational studies of users interacting with application software. The studies employed different scenarios, ranging from traditional experimental-style scenarios, with users working through a series of tasks, to constructive interaction scenarios, where users interacted with a co-investigator playing the role of a learner or co-learner. All studies were recorded on video, transcribed and analysed. Advantages and drawbacks of the scenarios for eliciting users' models are identified and discussed. The analysis of the tapes and transcripts provides some evidence of users' models; the conclusions of the thesis provide an outline of how theories regarding users' models can be formulated, and tested, using the data collected.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Science
School or Department: School of Computer Science
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/7356


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