The minimal manual: is less really more?

Adrianus W. Lazonder, Hans van der Meij

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Carroll, Smith-Kerker, Ford and Mazur-Rimetz (The minimal manual, Human-Computer Interaction , 3, 123-153, 1987) have introduced the minimal manual as an alternative to standard self-instruction manuals. While their research indicates strong gains, only a few attempts have been made to validate their findings. This study attempts to replicate and extend the original study of Carroll et al. Sixty-four first-year Dutch university students were randomly assigned to a minimal manual or a standard self-instruction manual for introducing the use of a word processor. During training, all students read the manual and worked training tasks on the computer. Learning outcomes were assessed with a performance test and a motivation questionnaire. The results closely resembled those of the original study: minimalist users learned faster and better. The students' computer experience affected performance as well. Experienced subjects performed better on retention and transfer items than subjects with little or no computer experience. Manual type did not interact with prior computer experience. The minimal manual is therefore considered an effective and efficient means for teaching people with divergent computer experience the basics of word processing. Expansions of the minimalist approach are proposed.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)729-752
Number of pages24
JournalInternational journal of man-machine studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • METIS-135081
  • IR-26430

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