Finding the right references, part 1

By Gordon Rugg

The best questions are often short.

In a comment on a recent article here, Mosaic of Minds asked which authors I’d recommend for further reading about Likert scales. It’s a fair, sensible question, which lifts the lid on a whole boxful of issues about academic references. Many of those issues are important, but not as widely known as they should be.

This article is the first in an informal series about academic references, online search, and the ways that evidence is used in research. In this article, I’ll be looking at two concepts that provide some useful structure for understanding this general area, namely craft skills versus formalised knowledge, and back versions versus front versions. I’ll start with an overview of these concepts, and then look at the insights they give into different sources of information, including academic references.

Continue reading

Requirements that clients don’t talk about: The elephant in the room

By Gordon Rugg

He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision,–he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath–

“‘The horror! The horror!’

This article is one in a series about the problem of identifying and clarifying client requirements, using the ongoing semi-humorous example of a client’s requirement for an image of an elephant. The previous episodes have looked at some bad ways of tackling the problem. This episode looks at methods for tackling difficult areas of requirements gathering, where people are for various reasons reluctant to talk about a particular topic. It also looks at the underlying reasons for that reluctance.

That takes us into some uncomfortable and morally ambiguous territory, which is why I’ve opened with a quote from Heart of Darkness. If you’re trying to fix real problems, then you need to know how to find out the realities, and that isn’t always fun.

Continue reading