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Glossary
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Next: The characterisation by the Up: Modules Previous: Modules

   
4.2.1 The typology of the information

In order to develop the modular model, we assume a set of requirements, which have been formulated in the interactants profile discussed in section 2.2.2. According to these requirements, scientific information should be characterised and organised from different points of view that are relevant in the process of scientific communication.

As we mentioned in section 2.1.2, the traditional structure of articles roughly reflects the (idealised) structure of the research process reported in the article as a  problem-solving process. We make this structure more explicit in articles, by introducing in the modular model a characterisation of the information by the role it plays in the research at hand, which we call its `conceptual function' . Characterising information by its conceptual function thus leads to the creation of modules corresponding to the stages in the problem-solving process. For instance, information about the methods used to solve the problem is represented in a module dealing with those methods, whereas information obtained as the outcome of the problem-solving process is grouped into another module.4.8 The conceptual function of the information is the leading principle for the distinction of different modules. Hence, the resulting modular structure of an article is based on a problem-solution pattern, which is further refined using the other characterisations of the information.

The second perspective for the characterisation of information in scientific articles is the domain-oriented one: the information is characterised by its scientific content . Traditionally, this characterisation is expressed in index terms, such as key words or classification codes. Characterising and grouping information by its scientific content allows readers to get information on a specific subject.

These complementary characterisations of the information, by its conceptual function and by its scientific content, allow for the identification of the conceptual information units. In order to meet the requirements for effective and efficient scientific communication, the modular model includes two additional points of view from which modules can be distinguished.

We introduce in the modular model a characterisation of the information by its `range' , which expresses how widely applicable the information and its representation in a module are. Given the fact that a modular presentation yields a network of linked modules, the representation in a separate module of the information with a wide range, which is applicable to other research situations than the one at hand, facilitates multiple use. For instance, all relevant information about a particular apparatus can thus be grouped into a module and linked to all articles concerning experiments conducted using the same apparatus.

Finally, a specified set of bibliographic data  is used to characterise the modules, similarly to the traditional bibliographic characterisation of articles.4.9 These bibliographic data include the names of the authors of the module and its publication date; many of these data will apply to all modules in a modular article. The bibliographic characterisation is necessary, to allow readers to locate modules from the bibliographic point of view. It also supports the general communication functions of the article, such as the registration and certification (see section 2.2.2). For instance, the characterisation of each module by its authors' names not only allows the reader to directly pinpoint all modules written by a particular author, but it also indicates the intellectual ownership of each module.

In order to allow for effective and efficient communication via modular articles, the modular model thus includes a typology for the characterisation, and for the grouping into units, of the information from four different points of view:  

1.
the `conceptual function' of the information;
2.
the scientific content of the information;
3.
the `range' of the information;
4.
a specified set of bibliographic data associated to the information and its representation.
The characterisation along these four lines will be discussed in detail in the next sections.

     
[To the full figure] Figure 4.2: An example of a 6-dimensional characterisation of the information. Searching for modules with a specified scientific content, `conceptual function', `range' and three complementary types of bibliographic data, the first author, the second author and an interval of publication dates, yields two hits.

The characterisation of the information units following this typology can be represented at the conceptual level in a multidimensional `characterisation space' (see section 3.2). The characterisation is then represented by the location of the information unit in the characterisation space, as is illustrated by figure 4.2, which allows for complex search operations along one or more of the dimensions of the characterisation space.

The characterisation space is the product of four subspaces. The `domain-oriented space'  is usually multidimensional, as the domain-oriented characterisation consists of related key words. When the information is characterised by a single key word, this characterisation space is only one-dimensional. The `conceptual function space'  and the `range space'  are both one-dimensional, i.e. we characterise information using a single term describing its conceptual function and a single term describing its range. The `bibliographic data space'  is multidimensional, because the information can be characterised complementarily, e.g. by its author name and its publication date.

In the above, we have stipulated that scientific information is characterised and grouped into units distinguished by its scientific content, its conceptual function and its range. The resulting modules representing these information units are further characterised by specified bibliographic data. This last kind of characterisation is not used to create separate modules.

Apart from the representation of the scientific information that plays a role in the research reported in the modular article, it is also important to provide information about the article. Readers need a clear picture of the structure and contents of the article, that 1) allows them to assess its relevance to their information needs, 2) allows them to locate and retrieve it, and that 3) facilitates reading the article or parts of it. This need is particularly imperative in an electronic environment where readers browsing through an extended network risk getting `lost in hyperspace', as well as in a modular environment where the readers' insight into the coherence of articles is threatened by fragmentation.

Hence, in addition to the modules representing scientific information units, the modular model distinguishes a module that represents information about the modular article and its constituent modules: the module m1 Meta-information . The module Meta-information is a support module, which serves as a `linchpin' holding together the other modules of the article. It contains, for example, the author names, the title and an abstract of the article. Its function is to display and clarify the structure of the article and its relations to other publications, and to make explicit and compile the complete bibliographic information. This module with information about the article will be presented in detail in section 4.2.7, after the presentation of the modules representing the scientific information that form the core of the article itself.



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