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Technical communication in information systems development: the use of cognitive mapping

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2 Author(s)
Keng Siau ; Dept. of Manage., Nebraska Univ., Lincoln, NE, USA ; Xin Tan

Technical communicators can and should play an important role in the development of information systems to improve the usability of the systems. Besides writing user guides and training material, technical communicators can engage in four other tasks to add value to information systems development: acting as user advocate, writing online help, writing system and error messages, and providing advice on interface design. We assert that technical communicators' involvement in systems development should not be tied to a particular development methodology. Instead, they should be associated with four general tasks in systems development: system investigation, analysis, design, and implementation. We then discuss some notable human factors and their impacts on the tasks performed by technical communicators. Three cognitive mapping techniques-causal mapping, semantic mapping, and concept mapping-are introduced as a means to elicit an individual's belief system regarding a problem domain. These cognitive mapping techniques have great potential for overcoming some behavioral and cognitive problems as well as facilitating understanding among stakeholders in the development of information systems. We discuss how technical communicators can apply various cognitive mapping techniques to improve the usability of the resulting information systems. The use of these techniques is illustrated using a case study.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication  (Volume:48 ,  Issue: 3 )