Project Description

Sensemaking is described as the process of comprehension, finding meaning and gaining insight from information, producing new knowledge and informing further action. Understanding the sensemaking process allows building effective visual analytics tools to make sense of large and complex datasets. Currently, it is often a manual and time-consuming undertaking to comprehend this: researchers collect observation data, transcribe screen capture videos and think-aloud recordings, identify recurring patterns, and eventually abstract the sensemaking process into a general model. In this paper, we propose a general approach to facilitate such a qualitative analysis process, and introduce a prototype, SensePath, to demonstrate the application of this approach with a focus on browser-based online sensemaking. The approach is based on a study of a number of qualitative research sessions including observations of users performing sensemaking tasks and post hoc analyses to uncover their sensemaking processes. Based on the study results and a follow-up participatory design session with HCI researchers, we decided to focus on the transcription and coding stages of thematic analysis. SensePath automatically captures user’s sensemaking actions, i.e., analytic provenance, and provides multi-linked views to support their further analysis. A number of other requirements elicited from the design session are also implemented in SensePath, such as easy integration with existing qualitative analysis workflow and non-intrusive for participants. The tool was used by an experienced HCI researcher to analyze two sensemaking sessions. The researcher found the tool intuitive and considerably reduced analysis time, allowing better understanding of the sensemaking process.


Email Phong Nguyen



  • P. H. Nguyen, K. Xu, A. Wheat, B. L. William Wong, S. Attfield, B. Fields. SensePath: Understanding the Sensemaking Process through Analytic Provenance. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2015. PDF