A truly thought provoking post from Rachel Shadoan reviewing a paper on the sense making process. Definitely worth a read.

Rachel Shadoan Muses

In this paper, Pirolli and Card present a model of the “sensemaking loop”, the process by which analysts gather, filter, understand, and hypothesize about information. To build this model, they used cognitive task analysis and think aloud protocol analysis to identify the techniques and processes the analysts were using. However, the authors provide no further description of the methodology used in this study. This is particularly unfortunate as Cognitive Task Analysis does not refer to a single specific technique, but rather to a suite of approaches aimed at understanding what mental processes go into a task.

Methodological questions aside, the model of the sensemaking loop that the authors derived is an interesting description of the process. It is composed of a series of interlocking loops, through which the data becomes increasingly more structured. At one end of the structure spectrum, there are the external data sources: the things that an…

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