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1.2.4 Conveying information to others

Diagrams are used extensively in most types of texts, but why do authors use them? There are two main reasons:

  • to illustrate what something looks like;

  • to demonstrate how objects or ideas or quantities are organised or related.

But there is also a subsidiary reason I hinted at. Authors also use diagrams:

  • to decorate and enhance the text to make it more pleasing to read.


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1.2.3 Gender and cognitive styles

Cognitive style plays a large part in the way we use and see diagrams. As a generalisation, men tend to prefer linear processes with clear cause and effect while women tend to prefer associative logic and situations where cause and effect are less clear. Similarly, men tend to use exclusive, either/or thinking which can be developed into matrices or algorithms while women are more likely to use inclusive modes of thought, disliking either/or scenarios and are more comfortable than men with pa
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1.2.2 Visualisers and verbalisers

A major point about diagrams is that some people naturally relate well to them and use them frequently, while others tend to prefer textual material. The former are sometimes referred to as visualisers and the latter as verbalisers. There is nothing wrong with either of these tendencies, but in subjects like systems thinking, social science or technology, where text and diagrams support each other, it is important to be comfortable with both. In addition, it is helpful to rememb
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1.2.1 Influences on how we perceive diagrams

A few people find diagrams unhelpful; but many people who regularly use words find the discipline of conveying ideas in diagrammatic form both sharpens their understanding of the ideas and opens their eyes to alternative views. Diagrams are, like words, intensely personal ways of sharing information and seeing someone else's ideas in diagrammatic form can give a new view of what they are trying to communicate. Diagrams can also suggest new and unexpected relationships between ideas about a si
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Learning outcomes

After reading this unit you should be able to:

  • appreciate diagrams as a powerful aid to thinking and acting;

  • distinguish between systems diagrams and diagrams helpful in systems work;

  • demonstrate sufficient skills to ‘read’ and ‘draw’ a wide range of diagrams, following given conventions, that help improve your understanding of a situation;

  • select diagrams suited to the needs of the situation you are investigating an
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Introduction

Pictures speak louder than words. But how can you use diagrams to help you? This unit looks at how diagrams can be used to represent information and ideas about complex situations. You will learn how to read, draw and present diagrams to help illustrate how ideas or processes are connected.

This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Systems thinking and practice: diagramming (T552) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us
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