Cognitive work analysis

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Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA)[1] [2][3][4] is a framework that was developed to model complex sociotechnical work systems. The framework models different types of constraints, building a model of how work could proceed within a given work system. The focus on constraints separates the technique from other approaches to analysis that aim to describe how work is actually conducted, or prescribe how it should be conducted.

The CWA approach can be used to describe the constraints imposed by the purpose of a system, its functional properties, the nature of the activities that are conducted, the roles of the different actors, and their cognitive skills and strategies. Rather than offer a prescribed methodology, the CWA framework instead acts as a toolkit that can be used either individually or in combination with one another, depending upon the analysis needs. These tools are divided between phases. The exact names and scopes of these phases differ slightly dependent on the scope of the analysis; however, the overall scope remains largely the same. As defined by Vicente (1999), the CWA framework comprises five different phases; work domain analysis, control task (or activity) analysis, strategies analysis, social organisation and co-operation analysis, and worker competencies analysis.

The different tools within the CWA framework have been used for a plethora of different purposes, including system modelling,[5][6][7] system design, process design, training needs analysis, training design & evaluation, interface design and evaluation,[8] information requirements specification, tender evaluation, team design, and error management training design. Despite its origin within the nuclear power domain, the CWA applications referred to above have taken place in a wide range of different domains, including naval, military, aviation, driving, and health care domains.

It is especially difficult to prescribe a strict procedure for the CWA framework. In its true form, the framework is used to provide a description of the constraints within a domain. This description can then be used to address specific research and design aims.


  1. ^ Rasmussen, J.; Pejtersen, A. & Goodstein, L. P. (1994). Cognitive systems engineering. New York: Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-01198-9.
  2. ^ Vicente, K.J. (1999). Cognitive Work Analysis: Towards safe, productive, and healthy computer-based work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. doi:10.1201/b12457. ISBN 9780805823967.
  3. ^ Jenkins, D. P., Stanton, N. A., Sallu ban jaunga, P. M. Walker, G. H. (2009). Cognitive work analysis: coping with complexity. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. ISBN 9780754670261.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Bisantz, A.; Burns, CM (2008). Applications of Cognitive Work Analysis. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0805861518.
  5. ^ Ashoori, M; Burns, CM; Momtahan, K; d'Entremont, B (2014). "Using team cognitive work analysis to reveal healthcare team interactions in a labour and delivery unit". Ergonomics. 57 (7): 973–986. doi:10.1080/00140139.2014.909949. PMC 4066876. PMID 24837514.
  6. ^ Euerby, A; Burns, CM (2014). "Improving social connection through a communities of practice inspired cognitive work analysis approach". Human Factors. 56 (2): 361–383. doi:10.1177/0018720813494410. PMID 24689254.
  7. ^ Li, Y; Hu, R; Burns, CM (2016). "Understanding automated financial trading using work domain analysis". The 59th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. 59 (56(1)): 165–169. doi:10.1177/1541931215591034.
  8. ^ Burns, CM; Hajdukiewicz, J (2004). Ecological Interface Design. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. ISBN 9780415283748.

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