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Findings

In this thesis, we have shown that electronic scientific articles can be organised in a  `modular structure' that consists of modules representing different kinds of information units and links expressing various relations. Because the modules are uniquely characterised and self-contained, they can be located, retrieved and consulted separately. They can also be located, retrieved and consulted in conjunction with related modules, because the coherence of the information distributed over different modules is made explicit.  In the first place, the coherence is expressed in the composition of  elementary modules into  complex modules. Secondly, it is expressed in the explicitly characterised links that connect related modules (or parts of modules). A single link connecting particular modules can express various relations between these modules, between the information units underlying the modules and between the entities that information is about. Since the links connect both modules within an article and modules that are part of different publications, the modular article forms a network within the network of all scientific publications. A modular presentation of information allows readers to navigate freely through the network of information, compiling their own reading-matter to suit their particular information needs.

We have developed a modular model for the structure of electronic articles on experimental science; we have also specified rules for the creation and evaluation of modular articles on experimental molecular dynamics in particular. The modular model has two main components.  The first component is a multidimensional typology for the various kinds of information that are represented in scientific articles and thereby for the modules. In addition to the traditional bibliographic and domain-oriented characterisations, we have introduced a characterisation of the information by its conceptual function and a characterisation by its range. The second component is a multidimensional typology for the links by the relations they represent.  These relations fall into two main classes: organisational relations and scientific discourse relations. The typologies that we have developed can be used for the creation and explicit labelling of modules and links in articles on experimental science. From our model, modular models for other domains and genres can be derived by deleting or adjusting the elements of the typologies that do not suit and adding suitable ones.

Starting from an `interactants profile' with the needs of authors and readers, we conclude that the flexible and explicit modular structure allows for more effective and efficient communication in an electronic environment:

1.
Multiple usage
The modular structure allows authors to re-use modules that they have written themselves or that have been written by others. Particularly suitable for multiple use are modules with a wide range, i.e.  mesoscopic and macroscopic  modules. Therefore, writing a modular article is more efficient than writing a linear article.

2.
Locating relevant information
The modular structure allows for better information retrieval than the traditional structure, since the multidimensional characterisations of the modules and links allow for a complex search, as well as for a well-considered selection of a browsing path:   
3.
Selective reading 
The modular structure allows readers to selectively locate, retrieve and consult precisely those parts of the published works that interest them most: a single module, an entire article, or another set of related modules. Since selective reading is a common reading strategy, a modular article is more efficient than a traditional, linear article.

4.
Clarity
In an article with a standardised modular structure, scientific information is presented in a systematic way. The structure of a modular article is made explicit in the composition of modules and in the characterised links, and it is clearly represented in the Map of contents and in the Abstract and the module summaries. Thus, a modular article is more transparent for the reader than a linear article.

In order to allow for a substantial improvement of scientific communication in practice, the modular model must be implemented in such a way that the authors and readers can indeed take advantage of the benefits of the modular structure. Authors must be provided with tools that enable them to write modular articles in a straightforward, efficient and standardised way. For locating, retrieving and consulting modular articles, the reader needs appropriate reading aids. From our study, clear requirements emerge for tools supporting the process of writing modular publications, as well as for tools that enhance the product.


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Table of Contents
Index
Glossary










































Table of Contents
Index
Glossary
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Next: Leads for further research Up: Conclusions Previous: Conclusions