The use of a computational tool to support the refinement of ideas

M. B. Twidale, T. Rodden, I. Sommerville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe the Designers' Notepad and observations of its use. This is a tool developed to support the very early stages of software design, which involve brainstorming, refinement of ideas and the consideration and selection between alternative design options. In essence, the tool permits the users to construct and structure entities and links between them. By providing the ability to create substructures, to use colour and shape and to add textual annotations of varying type and structure to entities, and to very easily revise and edit structures, it is possible to construct sophisticated designs with remarkable ease. Considerable effort has been put into enhancing both the usability and generality of the tool by focussing on HCI issues. It has been developed using rapid prototyping and incremental change based around continuous studies of the prototypes in use in authentic tasks (real-world tasks that the users have regardless of whether they use the system or not). As a result the tool can be used to support many different kinds of activity involving the structuring, ordering and interlinking of concepts. Thus it can have substantial general educational benefits across a variety of subject domains. A preliminary study of the use of the tool by second year computing undergraduates and students of other disciplines has been undertaken. We report the initial findings of this study and their implications for future development of this and related learning-support tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
JournalComputers and Education
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'The use of a computational tool to support the refinement of ideas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this