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Van der Meij, H., & Gellevij, M.R.M. (2004). The four components of procedures. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 47(1), 5-14.
Background. As they guide people in performing a task, procedures are the heart of most manuals. It is therefore somewhat surprising that the theoretical and empirical knowledge of their nature has remained somewhat elusive. This paper describes a theoretical framework for procedures, summarized as The Four Components model, which is grounded in systems theory and rhetoric.
Aim. The study addresses two research questions: (1) What are procedures made of?, and (2) Which design guidelines for procedures can be abstracted from theory and research?
Results. The model distinguishes between: Goals, Prerequisite States, Unwanted States (warnings and problem-solving information), and Actions & Reactions. For each component pertinent research findings are summarized and lead to the formulation of design guidelines. Occasionally these guidelines are compared with existing procedures from a sample of 104 manuals to see how well theory and practice agree.
Conclusion. The model offers a manageable and expandable framework for creating user support that is based on scientific research. It can be used for a systematic analysis of procedures and for their (re)design.