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Robbins Dissertation on ArgoUML
Title: Cognitive Support Features for Software Development Tools
Author: Jason Elliot Robbins
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy in Infomation and Computer Science
University: University of California, Irvine, 1999
Advisor: Professor David F. Redmiles

Software design is a cognitively challenging task. Most software design tools provide support for editing, viewing, storing, sharing, and transforming designs, but lack support for the essential and difficult cognitive tasks facing designers. These cognitive tasks include decision making, decision ordering, and task-specific design understanding. To date, software design tools have not included features that specifically address key cognitive needs of designers, in part, because there has been no practical method for developing and evaluating these features. This dissertation contributes a practical description of several cognitive theories relevant to software design, a method for devising cognitive support features based on these theories, a basket of cognitive support features that are demonstrated in the context of a usable software design tool called Argo/UML, and a reusable infrastructure for building similar features into other design tools. Argo/UML is an object-oriented design tool that includes several novel features that address the identified cognitive needs of software designers. Each feature is explained with respect to the cognitive theories that inspired it and the set of features is evaluated with a combination of heuristic and empirical techniques.