How do People Make Sense of Unfamiliar Visualizations? A Grounded Model of Novice's Information Visualization Sensemaking

Sukwon Lee, Sung Hee Kim, Ya Hsin Hung, Heidi Lam, Youn Ah Kang, Ji Soo Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we would like to investigate how people make sense of unfamiliar information visualizations. In order to achieve the research goal, we conducted a qualitative study by observing 13 participants when they endeavored to make sense of three unfamiliar visualizations (i.e., a parallel-coordinates plot, a chord diagram, and a treemap) that they encountered for the first time. We collected data including audio/video record of think-aloud sessions and semi-structured interview; and analyzed the data using the grounded theory method. The primary result of this study is a grounded model of NOvice's information Vlsualization Sensemaking (NOVIS model), which consists of the five major cognitive activities: encountering visualization, constructing a frame, exploring visualization, questioning the frame, and floundering on visualization. We introduce the NOVIS model by explaining the five activities with representative quotes from our participants. We also explore the dynamics in the model. Lastly, we compare with other existing models and share further research directions that arose from our observations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7192668
Pages (from-to)499-508
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 31


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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