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Next: The module Meta-information Up: The internal structure of Previous: Complex modules

   
Elementary modules

By definition, an elementary module does not contain explicitly characterised components forming meaningful self-contained modules. Nevertheless, it still can consist of different parts, although these parts cannot be retrieved separately. For the sake of clarity, the internal structure can be made explicit in the presentation of the information within the module. Standard lay-out techniques, such as paragraphs and headings, can be used for that purpose, as well as indicators in the text. The different ways to represent information, such as tables, figures and other non-textual representations, can also be used to make the internal structure explicit.

We determine the internal structure of elementary modules from two points of view from which we do not distinguish separate modules: 1) a secondary conceptual function of some aspects of part of the information represented in a module, and 2) the communicative function of the information.

Nested problem-solution pattern
Firstly, we distinguish the different parts of an elementary module by considering its internal problem-solution pattern . The problem-solution pattern of the presentation of the research in the article can be nested: a more detailed `sub-problem-solving process' can be required to adequately take a certain step of the main problem-solving process represented in the article. The core of this step is formed by the outcome of the sub-problem-solving process. The sub-problem-solving process has to be represented in the article when it is expected that part of the target audience cannot understand or accept its outcome without further elucidation or argumentation. When it is relevant to represent the sub-problem-solving process, our model stipulates that it is represented in the internal structure of the module at hand, rather than in the explicit modular structure of the article representing the problem-solving process as a whole.

The elementary module Treated results can, for instance, contain a graphical or tabular representation of some measurements. It may be necessary to explicitly address the following problem: how to treat the raw data obtained from the measurements and to present the results in an insightful manner? The problem-solving process described in the article as a whole constitutes the context of this problem: the question as to what is an insightful representation depends on the intended uses of the results. The response is to use data analysis and representation techniques that are appropriate in this situation. The graphical or tabular representation thus obtained forms the outcome of this small-scale problem-solving process. That process can be represented in the internal structure of the module Treated results.

Another example is the elementary module Experimental methods about a complicated apparatus. When the description of the apparatus itself is not sufficient, the author gives the module a sub-problem-solution-pattern, by including an account of how the apparatus is constructed and the reasons why it is constructed in this way. The problem in the sub-problem-solving process recounted in that module is how to make the appropriate measurements, and the result is the apparatus itself and the way it is used in actual measurements. The fact that these modules have a problem-solution pattern similar to that of an article, is illustrated by the fact that there are indeed articles published in technical journals devoted to this type of problem.4.20

The conceptual function of the information can express the role the information plays within the context of a particular module that plays in its turn another role within the context of the article as a whole. This yields, for example, Results modules with `methods aspects' and Methods modules with `results aspects'. Although the secondary conceptual function of the information could be used to identify the internal structure of modules, only the conceptual function at the level of the main problem-solution pattern is used to explicitly label the information and to distinguish the different modules. Otherwise, the information turns out to be fragmented too much, so that the resulting modules do not satisfy the criterion of self-containedness.

The sub-problem-solution-pattern within a module does not necessarily have the same elements as the one at the level of the article. Especially the modular model's detailed distinction of the outcome of the problem-solving process, in terms of results, interpretations and final findings, does not seem appropriate in all cases. Since we use the sub-problem-solution pattern for implicit structuring of modules only, the global elements of a situation, a problem, a response and an outcome suffice.

Communicative function
Secondly, we determine the internal structure of  elementary modules from the point of view of speech act theory (see section 2.2.1).   A particular reader considers a module to be successful, if he understands the representation of the information (i.e. if the communicative effect has been achieved) and if he accepts it (i.e. if the intended interactional effect has been achieved). Accordingly, the module can have three communicative functions, of two basic types [Van der Tol and Harmsze, 1997]:

Let us consider, as an example, the module Experimental methods concerning a molecular beam apparatus. Firstly, the author should inform the reader of the features of the apparatus. For that purpose a - more or less detailed - report is given. Secondly, if the intended readership presumably does not accept the reliability of the apparatus without further argumenation, the author should justify it. To fulfil that communicative function, the author gives arguments supporting the standpoint that the reliability of the apparatus is adequate. In the example of a molecular beam apparatus, this argumentation is concerned with the restrictions, such as the energy range, the precision of the velocity selector and the detector, as well as the purity of the beam. Thirdly, the author should justify the relevance, in other words the applicability of the apparatus to the problem at hand, if it is likely that readers will not accept it without further argumentation.

There is a specific relation between these communicative functions. Convincing the reader of the relevance of a step in the problem-solving process is only possible when the reader is already convinced of its reliability (otherwise it would merely be hypothetical relevance). And argumentation on the reliability is meaningful only if the reader is sufficiently informed about the matter at hand. Therefore, the second communicative function (convincing the reader of the reliability) can be fulfilled only when the first communicative function (informing the reader) has been fulfilled.

In practice, the means to fulfil these communicative functions are often intertwined in the article, in the sense that the same text can be used subsequently as 1) a report on some aspect of the research, 2) argumentation for its reliability and 3) argumentation for its relevance. Hence, the model does not include the communicative function in the typology for the distinction of different modules. Even so, taking into account the different communicative functions allows for a more systematic creation and evaluation of modules leading to a clearer modular structure.4.21

All communicative functions can be fulfilled in almost all modules. Exceptions are, firstly, the module Central problem, which does not contain argumentation. Any problem-related argumentation is given in the Situation module, for the sake of the conciseness of the Central problem. Secondly, the Meta-information does not contain argumentation for the simple reason that it does not contain scientific discourse . An exception is the Abstract, but that is a reflection of the discourse in the `scientific part' article, rather than a new discourse. The other modules contain a report and explicit argumentation on the reliability and relevance of the represented step in the problem-solving process, provided that not all members of the target audience are expected to be sufficiently aware and convinced of the reliability and relevance of the issue at hand.



Next: The module Meta-information Up: The internal structure of Previous: Complex modules