Conceptual Graph Structures: Part 4

Conceptual Graph Structure

Hand-drawn Conceptual Graph Structure by Scott Confer

The Secret Sauce

In past posts, I have outlined the components of the type of mental model called Conceptual Graph Structures. There are six kinds of nodes, connected by 18 types of arcs, which indicate semantic relationships between the nodes.  I have talked about the basic CGS substructures: taxonomies, goal heirarchies, causal networks, and spatial relationships. I have given you cheat sheets for the “legal combinations” of nodes and arcs for each substructure type.

But let’s say you are on a new project of some kind or another, and all you have to work from is your rough notes from a kickoff meeting, and an sketchy set of project requirements which your project manager dashed off last night between dinner, and his 9 pm appointment to read The Phantom Tollbooth to the kids before bed.

So where do you start?

Take your rough notes and the requirements document and lay them out on the dining room table. Read them both through once, identifying key pieces of information:

  • who are the learners, or people who are going to use your work?
  • who are the actors (the people who are going to do the work on this project)?
  • what is the context?
  • what transformation is needed?
  • can you pick out any taxonomies (like a navigation system, or a group of roles, for example)?
  • does a goal or two jump out at you?
  • can you see any cause and effect relationships?
  • are there any spatial relationships described?

Now you’ll need a big, clean piece of paper and a pencil. Sentence by sentence, identify nodes (concepts, states, styles, events, goals, and goal-actions) and how they could be connected, using any of the 18 types of arcs.  Draw these nodes and arcs on the piece of paper. You’ll wind up with something that looks sort of like the drawing above.

My colleague Scott Confer (who drew the CGS above) calls this method the “secret sauce” of making Conceptual Graph Structures (CGS). It’s a great way to kick-start an Agile project.

Other posts on the topic of Conceptual Graph Structures

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.

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