A research experiment to evaluate the acceptability of microcomputer software documentation

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Microcomputer software users require varying degrees of instructional assistance to effectively operate the software they purchase. Chapter I recognizes that this demand for quality documentation places a burden upon software suppliers to expend additional time, energy, and money to satisfy users. This research recommends a set of procedural guidelines for microcomputer software suppliers to follow as a means of supplementing basic documentation techniques.

Literature regarding microcomputer software documentation is an item of increasing demand in today's technical marketplace. The literature review, Chapter II, reveals that the most significant improvement in the documentation process has been the development of two specific reference standards, physical layout and instructional components.

Chapter III describes the research experiment used in obtaining information regarding the documentation associated with two current microcomputer word processing programs. Four university students provided background information regarding the personal characteristics, attributes, associated with a given user population.

The research experiment evolved from a comprehensive documentation review to a structured data collection process. Chapter IV indicates that the discrepancy between actual and expected research gains justifies improving data collection techniques and recommending specific procedural guidelines for future documentation reviews.

The final chapter provides a detailed analysis of the research experiment and conclusions related to the documentation's effectiveness. Additionally, it proposes procedural guidelines designed to improve the experiment's data collection techniques. These guidelines can help future documentation writers more accurately gauge user capabilities and limitations.