The primary objective of this thesis is to contribute to a theory of EDP audit strategy review expertise. This objective is attained by developing a descriptive model of EDP audit strategy review problem solving processes, deriving propositions from the model, and empirically testing some of those propositions.
It is important to develop a theory of EDP audit strategy review expertise for the following reasons. First, understanding the processes expert and novice EDP auditors use will aid EDP audit management in staff training and developing decision support aids. Second, since some commonalities are evident in the results achieved in problem solving research in other task domains, the knowledge gained in this research will also contribute to a general theory of problem solving expertise in diagnosis.
Since the objective of the research was to investigate problem solving processes, a process tracing methodology, collection of verbal protocols, was used. This research method helps to describe "what is going on" in a subject's mind while he/she completes a problem solving task. Verbal protocol data are collected by requesting a subject to talk aloud his/her thought processes while completing a task and recording those vebalizations.
The problem solving task used in this study was EDP audit strategy review. Subjects were given a relatively complex EDP audit strategy for auditing a computer system and were requested to review the strategy and diagnose any weaknesses. Eight subjects classified as experts and eight subjects classified as novices participated in the study.
Analysis of subjects' problem solving strategies showed that those classified as experts used a breadth-first approach during EDP audit strategy review, while novices demonstrated either a depth-first or a breadth-first approach. Experts also performed an overall/final evaluation of the EDP audit strategy, while most novices failed to integrate their specific findings by performing an overall evaluation. Finally, experts relied significantly more than novices on general audit and EDP audit strategy knowledge during the EDP audit strategy review process.
In summary, the research has contributed to the formulation of a theory of EDP audit strategy review expertise and of a general theory of problem solving expertise in diagnosis by identifying the following strategic propositions for further investigation:
1. In ill-defined diagnostic tasks, experts use a breadth-first approach to problem solving.
2. In ill-defined diagnostic tasks, novices use either a depth-first or breadth-first approach to problem solving.
3. In ill-defined diagnostic tasks, there are three diagnostic problem solving phases: familiarization; exploration; and overall evaluation.
4. In ill-defined diagnostic tasks, experts demonstrate all three diagnostic phases while novices demonstrate only two diagnostic phases (familiarization and exploration).