back next next
Table of Contents
Index
Glossary
























































Table of Contents
Index
Glossary
back next next

Next: The general definition of Up: A modular structure Previous: A modular structure

  
3.1.1 The general definition of modules

According to the criteria for effective and efficient communication via scientific articles that we specified in section 2.4, information concerning each separate subject should be presented in a unit that readers can locate, retrieve, consult and manipulate separately. Hence, we define a module as follows: 

A module is a uniquely characterised, self-contained representation of a conceptual information unit, which is aimed at communicating that information.

This definition can be applied to any coherent body of information. In practice, the question as to what can be a conceptual information unit underlying a module can only be answered for a particular domain and genre. In chapter 4, we shall concentrate on electronic articles on experimental sciences, and in chapter 5 we shall focus even further on the domain of experimental molecular dynamics. Here, we clarify the general definition of a module.

The first distinguishing feature of a module is that it is a particular kind of document. Information is represented in modules for the purpose of communication, in the same way it is represented in traditional scientific articles  for that purpose.3.1

The conceptual nature of the information unit represented in a module is the second feature: modules are identified by their underlying concepts.3.2${\rm ^,}$3.3  The distinction between different modules is independent of the language in which the information is represented (such as a particular natural language, mathematical formulae or pictures) and thereby independent of the storage format as well. A module neither has to coincide with a `storage unit', like a file, nor with a `presentation unit', e.g. a hypertext node.3.4

The lower boundary of what can constitute a module is determined by its self-containedness, which is the third distinguishing trait. Our criterion for a representation of an information unit to be self-contained is its meaningfulness when consulted independently of other modules. An adequate module represents sufficient information to satisfy the needs of the target audience. More specifically, a module is self-contained if at least the most informed members of the target audience can extract the scientific information.3.5 For example, a complete figure with experimental results can form a self-contained representation and, hence, a module. Error bars in the figure make the reliability of the measurements explicit. However, these error bars have no meaning independently of the results themselves, so that not even an expert can use them separately. Therefore, the representation of information on the reliability of the results cannot constitute a complete module.

The upper boundary of the information content of a module is given by the fourth feature of a module: a module focuses on a single concept . Other concepts may be addressed in the module, but these are auxiliary to the concept that the module focuses on. In other words, a module treats only one subject, allowing readers to concentrate on that subject. The nature and the degree of specificity of a relevant `single concept' depend on the domain in science and on the level of detail required by the target audience. For instance, a module in a general science tutorial can focus on the general concept of `molecules', whereas a module in an article on molecular physics could focus on the more specific concept of `sodium halide molecules'. In section 4.2, we shall introduce the modules we defined for articles on experimental science.

A module forms a part of a larger representation of information (e.g. an article or a documentbase) that has a modular structure: 

A modular structure is a pattern of modules and explicit links between modules.

A modular structure consists of two components that are put together following specified basic rules. The first component of a modular structure is a set of modules that satisfy the general definition as given above. The second one, consisting of the links between the modules, is addressed in the next section. Modules and links can be combined to form a coherent pattern following basic rules for the  composition of modules, which are given in section 3.1.3.3.6



Next: The general definition of Up: A modular structure Previous: A modular structure