Every picture tells a story : an investigation of data models as tools of communication : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Information Sciences at Massey University,
Data models are important in information system (IS) development, particularly as tools for expressing and communicating information business requirements. The ability to understand the information content of data models is a fundamental skill required by anyone involved with them. The aim of data modelling is usually the creation of a database design but without everyone having a clear understanding of what the data model 'says', the quality of the design may suffer. When we build a model, we obviously want it to be understood but that understanding is dependent on the ability of the model to communicate its meaning. The better the model is as a vehicle of communication the clearer the understanding will be. This research report explores this important aspect of data models and investigates the research that has been undertaken in this area including the NaLER (Natural Language for E-R) technique for reading data models. It describes an experiment conducted to explore this aspect. Subjects were tested on their ability to accurately and comprehensively interpret or 'read' a data model both before and after learning the NaLER technique. Measurement was done by using a questionnaire which consisted of two types of questions. The results show that when the subjects used NaLER, they improved their scores on the difficult questions but not the simple and medium questions. In addition, the results show that after learning NaLER, subjects' confidence in their ability to understand a model was increased, even though they actually scored less well overall.