2018-04 Pilot-testing experimental tasks: ordering process steps, correcting language mistakes, locating logical mistakes

Who: 1 or 2 student(s) Master Business Engineering (HIR)/Master Business Economics (MBE)/Master Business Administration - Management and Informatics (HW-M&I)
Promotor: Jan Claes

Problem description

Problem solving in an economical context focuses on both effectiveness (how well is the problem solved) and efficiency (how much cost, time, and effort did it take to solve the problem). We developed a technique for differentiated problem solving, which targets both by adapting a solution strategy to the problem solver’s individual characteristics and to the task. The main point of attention appears to be the serialist/holist dimension. A person is a serialist when (s)he prefers to perform tasks in the order they are presented (e.g., they study chapter by chapter). A person is a holist when (s)he prefers to first get an overview and then gradually fills in more details (e.g., study theory first, then exercises, cases, etc.) A flow-oriented task or solution strategy requires to solve the problem part by part, it matches with serialists. An aspect-oriented task or solution strategy requires to solve problems aspect by aspect, it matches with holists.

In order to test this technique, we would like to observe people when they do (not) apply this for solving simplified standard problems: i.e., ordering process steps (neutral task), correcting language mistakes (flow-oriented task), locating logical mistakes (aspect-oriented task).

Research objectives

The goal of this thesis is help design the tasks that will be used in a massive test session where hundreds of people will apply them while their progress will be monitored in the context of their individual cognitive profile. Preferably, you try to prepare an academic paper to be submitted to a top conference and which will form the body of your thesis (no need to write a separate text for the thesis).

This proposal is for a student who aspires to get a taste of real research practice. We are looking for a student who wants to take control and responsibility for the research. We will not interfere with your planning, ideas, approach, etc. In turn we offer our time, knowledge and support. You will receive a lot of inspiration and advice both on the research content and about how to manage the project, and we will try to offer help and answers when you ask for it.

Concerning the academic article, we expect you to write a 15-page article summarizing the research, which we want to submit to the annual BPM conference if the quality of the research and the text is good. We will do our best to help you reach this goal. We can help you to take crucial decisions, to improve research quality, to structure and write the text of the article.


In the first half, the aim should be to have fully designed the research methodology. Every aspect of the problem and proposed solution method needs to be understood and motivated. By the time of the intermediate evaluation session, you will be asked to answer and defend parts of the problem (Why is this problem (still) relevant? Who will benefit from your research?) and the proposed solution (Why did you decide to test this? Why do you think it is the best way to test this? How can you be certain about the results? What are the limitations of your approach?) This way, we hope to help you to develop a strong methodological approach to the research, which you will need to get it published. Below are some initial thoughts that can help you to get started. Note however, that in the end we may play the devil's advocate and question every step of your research (including our own suggestions).

  • What will be the essence of the article?
  • Why is there a need to study differentiated problem solving?
  • Why do you focus on the serialist/holist dimension?
  • Why do you consider these three tasks?
  • How can you verify that the tasks are complex enough and not too complex?
  • How will you distribute the tasks (could we build a tool for that)?
  • How will you motivate people to participate?
  • How will you collect the data?
  • How will you analyse the data?
  • What recommendations do you have for the massive data collection phase?

Afterwards, the research has to be executed and the dissertation and the academic article need to be written and submitted.

  • Jan Claes, Irene Vanderfeesten, Frederik Gailly, Paul Grefen, Geert Poels, The Structured Process Modeling Theory (SPMT) - A cognitive view on why and how modelers benefit from structuring the process of process modeling, Information Systems Frontiers, Vol 17 (6), p. 1401-1425, 2015
  • Jan Claes, Irene Vanderfeesten, Frederik Gailly, Paul Grefen, Geert Poels, Towards a structured process modeling method: Building the prescriptive modeling theory, Business Process Management Conference Workshops 2016, LNBIP 281, p. 168-179, 2017
  • Jan Claes, Irene Vanderfeesten, Frederik Gailly, Paul Grefen, Geert Poels, The Structured Process Modeling Method (SPMM) - What is the best way for me to construct a process model?, Decision Support Systems, Vol 100, p. 57-76, 2017

Here are some examples of the type of article we expect you to write. The articles can be downloaded from publications. More info can be found at mastertheses and resources.

  • Jeroen Bolle, Jan Claes, Investigating the trade-off between the effectiveness and efficiency of process modeling, BPM 2018 International Workshops (in press)
  • Joshua De Bock, Jan Claes, The origin and evolution of syntax errors in simple sequence flow models in BPMN, CAiSE 2018 International Workshops, LNBIP 316, p. 155-166, 2018
  • Jan Claes, Irene Vanderfeesten, Hajo A. Reijers, Jakob Pinggera, Matthias Weidlich, Stefan Zugal, Dirk Fahland, Barbara Weber, Jan Mendling, Geert Poels, Tying Process Model Quality to the Modeling Process: The Impact of Structuring, Movement, and Speed, Business Process Management Conference, LNCS 7481, p. 33-48, 2012

Interested? Book your own appointment via janclaes.youcanbook.me. No availability? Send me an e-mail at jan.claes@ugent.be.