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Conceptualizing Systems for Understanding: An Empirical Test of Decomposition Principles in Object-Oriented Analysis


  • Andrew Burton-Jones

    () (Management Information Systems Division, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, 2053 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z2)

  • Peter N. Meso

    () (Computer Information Systems Department, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, 35 Broad Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30302)


During the early phase of systems development, systems analysts often conceptualize the domain under study and represent it in one or more conceptual models. One of the most important, yet elusive roles of conceptual models is to increase analysts’ understanding of a domain. In this paper, we evaluate the ability of the good decomposition model (GDM) (Wand and Weber 1990) to explain the degree to which conceptual models communicate meaning about a domain to analysts. We address the question, “Do unified modeling language (UML) analysis diagrams that manifest better decompositions increase analysts’ understanding of a domain?” GDM defines five conditions (minimality, determinism, losslessness, weak coupling, and strong cohesion) deemed necessary to decompose a domain in such a way that the resulting model communicates meaning about the domain effectively. In our evaluation, we operationalized each of these conditions in a set of UML diagrams and tested participants’ understanding of those diagrams. Our results lend support to GDM across measures of actual understanding. However, the impact on participants’ perceptions of their understanding was equivocal.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Burton-Jones & Peter N. Meso, 2006. "Conceptualizing Systems for Understanding: An Empirical Test of Decomposition Principles in Object-Oriented Analysis," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 17(1), pages 38-60, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:orisre:v:17:y:2006:i:1:p:38-60

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary C. Moore & Izak Benbasat, 1991. "Development of an Instrument to Measure the Perceptions of Adopting an Information Technology Innovation," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 2(3), pages 192-222, September.
    2. Vijay Khatri & Iris Vessey & V. Ramesh & Paul Clay & Sung-Jin Park, 2006. "Understanding Conceptual Schemas: Exploring the Role of Application and IS Domain Knowledge," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 17(1), pages 81-99, March.
    3. Jeffrey Parsons, 1996. "An Information Model Based on Classification Theory," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(10), pages 1437-1453, October.
    4. Yair Wand & Ron Weber, 2002. "Research Commentary: Information Systems and Conceptual Modeling—A Research Agenda," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 13(4), pages 363-376, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Roman Lukyanenko & Jeffrey Parsons & Yolanda F. Wiersma, 2014. "The IQ of the Crowd: Understanding and Improving Information Quality in Structured User-Generated Content," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 25(4), pages 669-689, December.
    2. repec:eee:ijoais:v:14:y:2013:i:1:p:21-38 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:spr:infosf:v:14:y:2012:i:3:d:10.1007_s10796-011-9300-6 is not listed on IDEAS


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