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Abstract

Individuals can often use conceptual models to learn about the business domain to be supported by an information system. We investigate the extent to which such models can help novices (i.e., individuals who lack knowledge in the business domain and in conceptual modeling) to obtain an understanding of the domain codified in the model. We focus on two factors that we predict will influence novices’ understanding: (1) decomposition quality: whether the conceptual model manifests a good decomposition of the domain, and (2) multiple forms of information: whether the conceptual model is accompanied by information in another form (e.g., a textual narrative). We hypothesize that both factors will have positive effects on understanding and that these effects depend on whether the individual seeks a surface or deep understanding. Our results are largely in line with our predictions. Moreover, our results suggest that while novices are generally aware that having multiple forms of information affects their understanding, they are unaware that decomposition quality affects their understanding. Based on these results, we recommend that practitioners include complementary forms of information (such as a textual narrative) along with conceptual models and be careful to ensure that their conceptual models manifest a good decomposition of the domain.

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