Designing Procedural Information forUser Manuals: A Case Study withCircuit GraphicsDebopriyo RoyAssociate Professor, University of Aizu
Complexity in Instructions DesignIn traditional instructional design, information designers createinstructions with the whole assembly context in mind, while the readershave a smaller context; only being able to follow the instructions in thedesigner’s chosen order and content presentation (text + graphics).Problem with Complex Machine Instructions:1. Multiple components involved (additions and change acrosssubassembly).2. Multiple Subassembly shown.3. Different camera angles shown (body-centered, object-centered).A problem arises due to inconsistency between the informationdesigner’s and the reader’s mental models (Norman, 1983). Technical Communication Laboratory
Pictorial Circuit Design Pictorial Diagram is a simplified diagram which shows the various components of a system (motorcycle, car, ship, electronic devices, airplane, etc) without regard to their physical location, how the wiring is marked, or how the wiring is routed. It does, however, show you the sequence in which the components are connected. Technical Communication Laboratory
Pictorial and Schematic Styles ofCircuit DiagramsA pictorial circuit diagram usessimple images of components,while a schematic diagram showsthe components of the circuit assimplified standard symbols;both types show the connectionsbetween the devices, includingpower and signal connections. Technical Communication Laboratory
Focus Readers need to understand the context of text and graphics for any complicated procedural task. Process graphics/text show procedural task when the action elements (instruments, hand motion, arrow for motion, direction etc) are involved. Outcome graphics/text show the result of that action without involvement of action elements. This is unlike animations.Technical research questions: The extent to which text as aid is understandable? Can readers differentiate between process and outcome graphics as aid? Do readers understand and coordinate text-graphics information at each sub- assembly level? Do readers understand the visual context, independent of configuration and task sequence? Can readers make transitions between subassemblies, independent of text? Technical Communication Laboratory
Graphical Issues in Circuit Design - ACircuit Diagram Process Graphics Process-Outcome Graphics Technical Communication Laboratory
Outcome Graphics Sequence and Sub-assembly Technical Communication Laboratory
Implications in ESP Context In a hardware engineering-based course, would readers be able to understand complex designs and circuits graphically? To what extent would they be able to understand complex graphics in a minimalist design set-up? Would they be able to understand the supporting general text instructions written in English? (procedures) Would they understand complex geometrical functions and logical design explained in English? Technical Communication Laboratory
Advanced Technical Writing Course Focus on the Graphical Design Elements Assignments should focus on providing supporting text to complex procedural graphics Comprehending and matching tasks for text-graphics coordination. Understanding the placement of text and graphics in a local and global context. Technical Communication Laboratory
A Typical Assignment in Technical Writing Read the technical article on circuit design. Identify the sentences/phrases in the text which explains a procedure. Identify the sentences/phrases in the text which explains an outcome of a procedure. Identify the sentence/paragraph which is shown in the process and outcome graphics. Write a sentence on your own to explain each graphic you see in the article. Identify the process, process-outcome and outcome graphics. Technical Communication Laboratory
Few Assessment Criteria with UsabilityPerspectives Structural Information Functional Information Conditional Information Declarative Information Sequence Comprehension Information Scanning ability Ability for Text-Graphics coordination Ability to develop context-specific usage Technical Communication Laboratory
Research Question and Hypotheses Is it possible for users to understand text which explain process versus outcome orientation? Is it possible for users to understand graphics which explain process versus outcome orientation? Hypothesis: Based on research (Sharp, 2001), readers perform better with process graphics than with outcome graphics. However (based on previous findings on a similar context [Roy, 2006]), when text and graphics are presented in coordination, readers perform equally well with both process and outcome graphics. Technical Communication Laboratory
Methods 25 students in an undergraduate (junior-level) technical writing course were tested as part of a pilot study. A survey was handed out after an initial screening of the students’ ability to identify procedural information. Each participant was tested with 8 text-visual matching tasks each on the category of process, process-outcome and outcome graphics. Readers spent time reading basic circuit graphics articles before starting with the experiment. Readers were given the chance to read about the experimental case study and check the process as part of an animation. Technical Communication Laboratory
Test Instruments Each category had 8 matching tasks. Each task had a text and graphic. The three categories are identified as Type#1 (process), Type#2 (process-outcome) and Type#3 (outcome). Readers did not know how the material was organized. For each text support (one sentence each) (inside a type), readers had to match the text with a suitable graphics. For each matching task, readers also had to identify whether it is a process, process-outcome or outcome graphics. Each text and graphics were chosen as a coordination from articles/text on circuit design literature (from Google Scholar). Text for each graphic, was written to demonstrate the process/outcome orientation (ignoring other details). Each matching task had 1 point assigned to it as score. For each type users could have maximum of 8 points. All introductory level articles/materials were used for the survey. Readers were given a chance to familiarize themselves with the material that had the text-graphics choices published. Technical Communication Laboratory
Task Design - How to Make a PrintedCircuit Board (Presented Sequentially)
Task Design (Mouse Trap Chip) This sequence of pictures illustrate how the servo door can be constructed. Our first prototype mouse trap used a door made of an old credit card. The plastic is easy to shape using scissors. This first picture shows the underside of the door. Notice there are no screws protruding through the plastic, the bracket is glued to it. This is so the door can be flush against the opening to the trap when closed. The fitting that attaches to the servo came with the servo with 6 points, or stars. I cut 5 points off leaving one to mount to the bracket with a small #4-40 screw and nut. Cutting the unwanted stars is up to you.
Task Design Each graphic presented in the sequence. A description (major statement) for each sequence was provided. Two task sequences were used [1. Printed Circuit Board (24-step); Mouse Trap Chip (18-step)] Each graphic had one line of text support in 1st sequence. Each graphic had a paragraph of text support (30 words or less) in 2nd sequence. First sequence has 8 slot process/process-outcome/outcome graphic each. Second sequence has 6 slot process/process-outcome/outcome graphic each. 1st and 2nd sequence are similar in terms of difficulty levels (as suggested in inter-coder reliability analysis with graphics only/text only). Repeated measures conducted over three weeks to learn about distributed practice effect.
Variables Dependent:A. Score for each type / Total score (individual)B. Dependent: Score for each sequenceC. Dependent: Score for each subassembly Independent:A. Text contentB. Graphics contentC. Sentence structuresD. Choice of wordsE. Graphical attributesF. Information presentation structuresG. ConfigurationH. SequenceI. Complexity of sub-assembly Technical Communication Laboratory
Intercoder Reliability Analysis The graphics and text were chosen on the basis of the inter-coder reliability analysis: 1. Ease with which the text could be translated. 2. The ease with which the main idea for the graphics could be identified. 3. How many steps were shown in a sub-assembly? 4. How many components were shown in the graphics? 5. Whether action verbs were used in the sentences for matching task? Individually, a score was put on for each of the above categories .
Findings -1 - Descriptive Statistics N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation Variance ProcessW1 25 3 7 5.40 1.080 1.167 POW1 25 4 8 5.96 1.172 1.373 OutcomeW1 25 3 8 5.64 1.221 1.490 Valid N (listwise) 25 N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation Variance ProcessW2 25 3 7 5.08 .997 .993 POW2 25 3 7 5.56 1.083 1.173 OutcomeW2 25 4 8 5.40 1.225 1.500 Valid N (listwise) 25 Technical Communication Laboratory
Findings – 2 - Pearson Correlation ProcessW1 POW1 OutcomeW1ProcessW1 Pearson Correlation 1 .342 .051 Sig. (2-tailed) .094 .810 N 25 25 25POW1 Pearson Correlation .342 1 .456(*) Sig. (2-tailed) .094 .022 N 25 25 25OutcomeW1 Pearson Correlation .051 .456(*) 1 Sig. (2-tailed) .810 .022 N 25 25 25 P = .022 suggests less than 5% false positive values Technical Communication Laboratory
More Results on the way Friedman Test to analyze any overall difference in the mean scores for repeated measures in process, process-outcome and outcome groups. Practice effects studied with chi-square values. Perform a Bonferroni correction. Wilcoxin signed rank test to test if there is any significant difference between bivariate groups. Multiple regression analysis to test how a group of predictor variables might impact the overall total score for an individual on any specific type OR all the three types combined. The predictor variable GROUPS are as follows:A. SubassembliesB. SequencesC. Configuration identification.D. Verb identification Technical Communication Laboratory
Questions for Predictor Variable Groups Accuracy scores for 5 trials for each and every task below: Choose a graphic that represents the first task in the sequence. Choose a sentence that represents the first task in the sequence. Choose a graphic that might be part of a different subassembly. Choose a sentence that might be part of a different subassembly. Identify the different subassemblies in graphics. Identify the different subassemblies in text. In the following sentences (steps), identify the verb that represents a process. In the following sentences (steps), identify the verb that represents an outcome.
Future Analysis Due to complications relating to the multiple-information scenario (e.g., both process and outcome context within a single graphic or inside a subassembly scenario), within a subassembly, a multiple-regression /factor analysis should be conducted to test separate loadings of predictor variables. Test instruments should be systematized so that we get a good reliability and Chronback’s alpha value of more that .70. Each subassembly should be independently analyzed for its predictor variables and measured independently. Due to the relative nature of the answer possible, an ordinal scale might be used (use Likert scale and rank order responses). Technical Communication Laboratory
Example of Information ComplexityIdentify the subassemblies and represent them in a concept map (decision ladder) Technical Communication Laboratory
Information Complexity and Assignment DesignConsider this as a completegraphical unit. Identify eachindividual process and sub-circuit outcomes.1. Write them textually.2. Represent it in concept maps.3. Represent interdependent structures, concepts, functions in a venn diagram. Technical Communication Laboratory