Research Project

IMP – Individual Modeling Processes: Understanding modeling difficulties and designing tailored support for modelers

Headed by:
Prof. Dr. Stefan Strecker
Sven Christ, B.Sc.
Philip Winkler, M.Sc.
Project Status:
Prof. Dr. Kristina Rosenthal

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Research statement

Conceptual modeling as an activity involves an intricate array of cognitive processes and performed actions including abstracting, conceptualizing, contextualizing, associating, visualizing, interpreting & sense-making, judging & evaluating, and, in group settings, communicating, discussing and agreeing. Conceptual modeling and its learning are, hence, construed as complex tasks accompanied by challenges and difficulties specific to conceptual modeling.

Despite its importance and complexity, the process (or ‘act’) of conceptual modeling has received only limited attention in research so far. A recent literature review suggests that systematic knowledge about constructing conceptual models and learning processes of conceptual modeling is scarce (Rosenthal, Ternes & Strecker 2019). How conceptual modeling is performed by modelers, how modeling processes proceed, which modeling challenges and difficulties modelers experience and why, and how to overcome these difficulties by tailored modeling support has been subject to only a few studies.

The research project aims to contribute to a richer and more complete understanding of individual modeling processes by identifying modeling difficulties and by developing a taxonomic theory of such difficulties (cf. Rosenthal & Strecker 2019) – as theoretical foundation for designing tailored (software tool) support for modelers at different stages of their mastering of conceptual modeling. For studying individual modeling processes, we follow a mixed methods research design based on a multi-modal observation approach integrating complementary modes of observation of modelers’ modeling processes, including recording verbal protocols following the think aloud method, video recording of modelers from an ‘over-the-shoulder’ perspective, tracking modeler-tool interactions and surveying modelers (Rosenthal, Ternes & Strecker 2020). Observing and analyzing modeling processes is supported by TOOL, a web-based modeling tool integrated with a modeling observatory for studying modeling processes that has been developed in the Enterprise Modelling Research Group since 2013 (see research project TOOL).

We are looking for students who are interested in writing their bachelor’s or master’s thesis in this research project (see Abschlussarbeitsthemen, in German).

Photo: (c) FernUniversität in Hagen
Multi modal observation: Video recording of a modeler from an ‘over-the-shoulder’ perspective
Photo: (c) FernUniversität in Hagen
Mixed methods research design combining complementary modes of observation (cf. Rosenthal & Strecker 2019)

For questions regarding the research project please contact Dr. Kristina Rosenthal.



  • Rosenthal K: Modeling styles in conceptual data modeling: Reflecting observations in a series of multimodal studies. 30th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS 2022), Timisoara, Romania, 23.06.2022.

  • Rosenthal K: Modeling difficulties in data modeling: Similarities and differences between experienced and non-experienced modelers. 39th International Conference on Conceptual Modeling (ER) 2020, Vienna, Austria (virtual), 05.11.2020. Video presentation available at:

  • Rosenthal K: Shaping the digital transformation: Mixed methods research based on multi-modal observations of individual modeling processes, in 82. Jahrestagung des VHB zum Thema »Digitale Transformation«, 19.03.2020.

  • Strecker S: Studying the learning of conceptual modeling: Multi-modal data collection using a modeling tool & observatory, in 2. Workshop on Teaching and Learning Conceptual Modeling, IFIP WG 8.1 Working Conference on the Practice of Enterprise Modelling (PoEM 2019), Luxembourg, 27.11.2019.

  • Rosenthal K: Learning and teaching conceptual modeling in the light of learning paradigms, in 2. Workshop on Teaching and Learning Conceptual Modeling, IFIP WG 8.1 Working Conference on the Practice of Enterprise Modelling (PoEM 2019), Luxembourg, 27.11.2019.

  • Strecker S; Rosenthal K: Studying the learning of conceptual modeling: A learning observatory based on multi-modal data collection, in 1. Workshop on Teaching and Learning Conceptual Modeling, IFIP WG 8.1 Working Conference on the Practice of Enterprise Modelling (PoEM 2018), Vienna, Austria, 31.10.2018.

  • Strecker S: How can we study the learning of conceptual modeling? A learning observatory based on multi-modal data collection. Invited talk at the Research Center on Software Production Methods (PROS) at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). Valencia, Spain, 04.10.2018.

Lehrstuhl EvIS | 29.05.2024