Minimalism Revisited

Subject: Minimalism Revisited
From: Bob Armao <bob -at- BRS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1993 18:10:19 EDT

I know the discussion on minimalist documentation seems to have
finished, but I will add this tidbit.

Yesterday (5/26) I and my fellow tech writers had the opportunity to
hear Davida Charney discuss her research on the relative merits of ]
minimalist vs elaborative approaches to technical documentation.
She presented some very interesting information and here is my summary
in one nutshell:

Pure minimalism (as propounded by Carroll and others) isn't really
very effective for teaching skills, although it may be fine for
concrete, well-defined, use-once-and-discard tasks -- like instructions
for assembling a bicycle. For skill instruction, such as typcial
computer applications, procedural elaborations are very beneficial.
But conceptual elaborations are not particularly useful.

Davida also contributed a bibliography of her research in this field:

Charney, Davida, Reder, Lynne, & Wells, Gail. 'Studies in
Elaboration in Instructional Texts.' Effective Documentation:
What We Have Learned from Research. Steven Doheny-Farina (ed.).
Cambridge: MIT Press, 47-72, 1988.

Charney, Davida, & Reder, Lynne. 'Initial Skill Learning: An
Analysis of How Elaborations Facilitate the Three Components,'
Modelling Cognition.
P. E. Morris (ed.). Chichester: Wiley, 135-165, 1987.

Charney, Davida, Reder, Lynne, & Kusbit, Gail. 'Goal Setting and
Procedure Selection in Acquiring Computer Skills: A Comparison
of Tutorials, Problem Solving, and Learner Exploration,'
Cognition and Instruction, 7, 323-342, 1990.

Charney, Davida, & Reder, Lynne. 'Designing Interactive Tutorials
for Computer Users: Effects of the Form and Spacing of Practice
on Skill Learning.' Human-Computer Interaction, 2(4), 297-319,

Reder, Lynne, Charney, Davida, & Morgan, Kim. 'The Role of
Elaborations in Learning a Skill from an Instructional Text.'
Memory & Cognition, 14, 64-78, 1986.

Bob Armao
BRS Software Products
5 Computer Dr. South
Albany, NY 12205
bob -at- brs -dot- com

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