How can visual analytics assist investigative analysis? Design implications from an evaluation

Youn Ah Kang, Carsten Görg, John Stasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the growing number of systems providing visual analytic support for investigative analysis, few empirical studies of the potential benefits of such systems have been conducted, particularly controlled, comparative evaluations. Determining how such systems foster insight and sensemaking is important for their continued growth and study, however. Furthermore, studies that identify how people use such systems and why they benefit (or not) can help inform the design of new systems in this area. We conducted an evaluation of the visual analytics system Jigsaw employed in a small investigative sensemaking exercise, and compared its use to three other more traditional methods of analysis. Sixteen participants performed a simulated intelligence analysis task under one of the four conditions. Experimental results suggest that Jigsaw assisted participants to analyze the data and identify an embedded threat. We describe different analysis strategies used by study participants and how computational support (or the lack thereof) influenced the strategies. We then illustrate several characteristics of the sensemaking process identified in the study and provide design implications for investigative analysis tools based thereon. We conclude with recommendations on metrics and techniques for evaluating visual analytics systems for investigative analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5482577
Pages (from-to)570-583
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is based upon work supported in part by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) via Award IIS-0915788 and by the US Department of Homeland Security’s VACCINE Center under Award Number 2009-ST-061-CI0001.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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