Dealing with abstraction: case study generalisation as a method for eliciting design patterns

Winters, Niall and Mor, Yishay (2009). Dealing with abstraction: case study generalisation as a method for eliciting design patterns. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(5) pp. 1079–1088.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.01.007

Abstract

Developing a pattern language is a non-trivial problem. A critical requirement is a method to support pattern writers with abstraction, so as they can produce generalised patterns. In this paper, we address this issue by developing a structured process of generalisation. It is important that this process is initiated through engaging participants in identifying initial patterns, i.e. directly dealing with the ‘cold-start’ problem. We have found that short case study descriptions provide a productive ‘way into’ the process for participants. We reflect on a 1-year interdisciplinary pan-European research project involving the development of almost 30 cases and over 150 patterns. We provide example cases, detailing the process by which their associated patterns emerged. This was based on a foundation for generalisation from cases with common attributes. We discuss the merits of this approach and its implications for pattern development.

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