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Categorizing information in manuals Creating a universal categorization in declarative information

Karsten, P.S. (2011) Categorizing information in manuals Creating a universal categorization in declarative information.

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Abstract:In previous research on the topic of text types in manuals, many different definitions of text types have been used. This makes it more difficult than necessary to compare the results of research on this topic. To solve this problem a complete universal categorization of the information in manuals is needed. A part of this categorization is readily available. Three types of information are currently discerned in manuals. Two come in the form of well defined procedural and motivational information, while the third, often used, term of declarative information lacks uniformity in its definition and internal categorization. This study aims to split up declarative information into a well defined categorization. To accomplish this, three forms of research have been conducted: a literature review, a content analysis of real-life manuals, and open and closed card sort studies among a group of participants with professions related to this field of research as well as a group of participants unfamiliar with the field. The literature review indicated that in available research many different implementations and definitions of declarative information were used. All these different views of declarative information were collected and compared, leading to a universal categorization with six different categories: internal working, purpose, advice, topology, comparison and terminology. The content analysis of real-life manuals was carried out to check whether current manuals would contain information not covered by this categorization, but did not indicate any need for redefinition of these categories or the inclusion of any others. The open card sort was conducted to check what alternative categories participants would create. This study showed that some of the participants created categorizations in which the categories from the literature review could be discerned and others created interesting alternative categories; however these categories will have to be researched to determine whether they are a viable alternative. The closed card sort was conducted to determine whether the suggested universal categorization scheme would lead participants to categorize pieces of information consistently. It appeared that the items created for the purpose category were difficult to categorize; whether this was due to the chosen items or the definition of the category is not entirely clear. As the group of participants familiar with the field of research had a strong tendency to categorize these items as advice, the advice and purpose category were merged into the newly formed use category, leading to the following evolution of the categorization: Use: Information about when or why the procedure could be used Terminology: Information that defines the terms used in the manual Internal working: Information about the internal working of the product Topology: Information about the parts of the subject, where they are located and how they are connected Comparison: Information in which a part of the subject is compared to another system
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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