Conceptual Modeling

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The purpose of this article is to spell out the method of analysis I've developed over the years. The purpose of doing that is to help myself use the method more often and with a more consistent procedure and to come up with ways to teach it to anyone who's interested.

The article is a work in progress, as is the method.

Definition

I'm calling this article "Analysis," because that's the term I usually use, but I hardly ever think about analysis on its own. My idea of analysis pulls along with it synthesis, in the form of modeling and systems thinking. But I use the term analysis to cover all of it. If I had to pick another one, I'd call it systematizing.

Traditionally analysis is seen as being about conceptually taking apart the subject matter, separating it into its components, and synthesis is about assembling the parts. But with my question-asking approach, I really do both at about the same time. It's more a process of clarifying and exploring than disassembly and reassembly.

Goals

What are the goals of analysis in this method? There are two stages to think about in an analytical journey: the product of the analysis itself and the purposes that product can be used for.

The product I intend from an analysis is a model of the object I'm observing. The representation of the model can take various forms, such as a diagram, an essay, or a computer program. The model itself is an abstraction, though it will always have to take some form, if only as a set of ideas in the mind.

Another metaphor I use for this product is a map. This article, for example, is a representation of a map of my analytical method. This is appropriate for my journey metaphor.

The second stage of travel is the use you'll put the model to. To name some key examples, the model could be a basis for learning information or a skill, for creating other content, or for making a decision or solving a problem.

Why are we interested in knowing the goals of analysis? First, the goal determines what aspects of the material we're analyzing are important. So it's key to defining the model and also to directing our attention and maximizing our use of time. In this case, these goals will define our model of analysis.

Second, knowing the point of what we're doing is a great motivator. Sometimes it can make the difference between persevering and giving up.