Conceptual Graph Structures: Part 1

A section of a Conceptual Graph Structure, showing grammar

A section of a Conceptual Graph Structure, showing grammar

It’s not easy to figure out how real live people and learning systems interact.

A big challenge is that the human context is generally unstructured and dynamic.

Nonetheless, people tend to interact with each other, and with non-human systems, in ways that can be mapped with amazing precision, using a simple syntactical approaach.

The act of making these maps is sometimes referred to as cognitive task analysis.

Sallie Gordon-Becker, working with colleagues, developed a formal approach to cognitive task analysis, which she described as the building of Conceptual Graph Structures (CGS). CGSs are semantic networks with specific syntax, unlike the many varieties of concept maps which are out there, which don’t have a syntax. CGSs are comprised of nodes, connected by arcs only in certain “legal” ways. Think of the nodes as nouns and the arcs as verbs. I’ve shown a snippet of a CGS, above.

Why build a Conceptual Graph Structure?

Generally, you’ll use this cognitive tool at the beginning of a new program or project, to tease out requirements or acceptance criteria. I like using Conceptual Graph Structures to build mental models, because this method is very helpful in helping me tease out interactive relationships between agents, which I might otherwise overlook using the armchair philosopher method of thinking. You can use the CGS approach to analyze a variety of source material:

  • documents,
  • structured and unstructured interviews
  • video recordings of usability tests
  • etc., etc.

Here’s your reference material for understanding the six types of nodes:

Nodes

Conceptual graph structure nodes

Download CGS node reference as a PDF file

There are six kinds of nodes. The nodes can be simple concepts, but they also can be other places and ways of being in space-time and mental space, such as goals, actions, events, states and styles.

Each node is a graphical representations of one piece of declarative knowledge. Declarative knowledge, or propositional knowledge, is expressed in sentences that declare and propose facts about a topic. For example, I am not awake. The coffee is hot.  I am awake.

This is different from procedural knowledge, which is a statement of how a goal is reached, or how best to perform a task. For example, researching a trip to Spain, or making coffee are procedural types of knowledge.

A goal node indicates a circumstance, situation, state of affairs, or event desired by a person or an agent (such as a software application). It does not indicate how the goal is accomplished. For example, “stay awake.”

A goal-action node indicates either actions performed by the person or agent to attain a goal, or a mix of both goals and activities of a person or agent, toward a goal. For example, “make coffee”

An event node indicates a transition between one stable state and another stable state. For example, “coffee brews”

A concept node indicates a single entity, idea, or construct, with a single name, which can be a word or phrase. For example, “stimulating drink”

A state node indicates a relatively stable situation, circumstance, manner or condition of being. For example, “hot coffee ready”

A style node indicates a quality of a goal-action, such as duration or speed, or an instrumentality of a goal-action. For example, “home-brewed”

Now, here’s the cheat sheat on arcs:

CGS Arcs

Conceptual Graph Structure Arcs

Download CGS arc reference as a PDF file

There are 18 types of arcs, each with a specific meaning: reason, means, before, during, after, initiates, has consequences, refers-to, and, or, manner, is-a, equivalent-to, has-instance-of, has-property, has part, implies, and spatial relations.

These arcs are drawn from Arthur Graesser’s research into how people tell stories.  As I mentioned above, Sallie Gordon-Becker, working with colleagues, developed the Conceptual Graph Structures (CGS) process. These guides, templates and instructions for the use of Conceptual Graph Structures were developed by myself and my colleague Scott Confer.

Other posts on the topic of Conceptual Graph Structures

http://onemind.com/2010/01/28/conceptual-graph-structures-part-2/

http://onemind.com/2010/01/29/conceptual-graph-structures-part-3/

http://onemind.com/2010/02/03/conceptual-graph-structures-part-4/

http://onemind.com/2010/02/04/conceptual-graph-structures-visio-stencil-download/

Sallie Gordon-Becker, working with colleagues, developed the Conceptual Graph Structures (CGS) process. The arc structure is drawn from Arthur Graesser’s research into how people tell stories. The CGS guides, templates and instructions for the use of Conceptual Graph Structures were developed by myself and my colleague Scott Confer.The Visio stencil was developed by myself, Scott Confer and Andrew Rice.

One thought on “Conceptual Graph Structures: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Text of my SXSW presentation « OneMind

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