Cognitive Task Analysis

Acronym: 
CTA
Examples: 

Rinkus SM, Chitwood A. Cognitive analyses of a paper medical record and electronic medical record on the documentation of two nursing tasks: patient education and adherence assessment of insulin administration. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2002:657-661.

Baxter GD, Monk AF, Tan K, et al. Using cognitive task analysis to facilitate the integration of decision support systems into the neonatal intensive care unit. Artif Intell Med 2005;35(3):243-57.

Description: 

A cognitive task analysis (CTA) provides a means of capturing the way the mind works. This includes decisionmaking, reasoning, and how information is processed.

Uses: 

To better understand the otherwise unobserved aspects of a person in his or her work. This information can then be used to analyze and design workflows, and user interfaces, among other things.

How do I use this tool?: 

1. DEFINE THE PROCESSES YOU WISH TO BETTER UNDERSTAND.

2. DETERMINE THE MEANS OF CAPTURING THE RELEVANT COGNITIVE TASKS. This can be accomplished by asking an individual to verbally convey their thoughts while being observed in their work (or shortly after accomplishing a task) or by interviewing them.

3. DEVELOP YOUR DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENT. Identify the questions you wish to ask or what processes you wish to observe.

4. SCHEDULE THE INTERVIEW OR OBSERVATION.

5. COLLECT AND ANALYZE THE RESULTS.

Expertise Required: 
This tool is easy to use and requires little or no training.
Recommended Supplies/Materials: 
Data collection instrument
Audio-recording device
Advantages: 

Recognizes and allows for capture of processes that generally are not readily observable.

Can collect a significant amount of information during a relatively short period of time.

Disadvantages: 

Some people have a difficult time conveying cognitive processes; coaching them may result in data collection biases.

May be time consuming.

Where can I go to learn more?: 

Crandall B, Klein G, Hoffman RR. Working minds: a practitioner's guide to cognitive task analysis. London: The MIT Press; 2006.