Group work roles

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Group work roles define tasks for group members in collaborative pedagogy. Educational strategies and tactics can define roles for participants, both for presential and online activities. These are also called roles for group work or collaboration rules. The rational is that students groups function more efficiently and effectively when members have specific roles. Roles can be designed to trigger specific socio-cognitive processes, e.g. cognitive conflicts that will make people question their assumptions. Roles can be given out for shorter activities or longer ones that can span over several weeks. In the latter case, roles also can be rotated among group members.

Strategic division of roles also exists in other contexts, e.g. management models, and also can inspire education.

See also:

Defining and assigning roles

The procedure for define roles could include three steps

  • Define the roles that are needed with respect to (learning) goals to be achieved and group dynamics that is desired
  • Explain roles to students
  • Design activities that capitalize on outcomes within groups, between groups and at the class level
  • Debrief

Typically, in an educational context, these roles do not define all the work that will be done. Roles rather just ensure that each group member adopts a specific coordination task.

Most common roles for groups of three to four

A small group of three should have a leader and a scribe. The third one depends on the nature of the project.

Role name Alternative names Function
1.Facilitator: Leader, Manager
  • Makes sure that objectives are met
  • Manages discussion
  • Coordinates work or discussion of coordination
  • Ensures that work is done and deadlines met
2. Scribe: Secretary
  • Takes notes of decisions taken
  • Prepares report or coordinates report writing
  • (In groups of three) presents work
3a. Presenter: Summarizer, spokesperson
  • Presents results to other groups / class
  • Prepares to answer questions
3b. Reseacher: Librarian, resource collector
  • Finds and collects (appropriate) resources
3c. Specialist: (depends on the task)
  • Develops multimedia/software or coordinates that work
  • Carries out data analysis

Most common roles for larger groups

(one person can combine more than one role in smaller groups)

Role name Alternative names Function
Facilitator: Leader, Manager
  • Makes sure that objectives are met
  • Manages discussion
  • Coordinates work or discussion of coordination
  • Ensures that work is done
  • etc.
Scribe: Secretary
  • Takes notes of decisions taken
  • Prepares report or coordinates report writing
Presenter: Summarizer, spokesperson
  • Presents results to other groups / class
Critic: Sceptic, thinker, challenger
  • Raises objections, counter-propositions
  • Identifies what could go wrong
Resource collector: Librarian, researcher
  • Finds and collects (appropriate) resources
Time keeper: Time/objective keeper
  • Monitors time and planing
  • (Optionally) also monitors if the project is on track
  • This role (or several) are defined according to specific needs
  • E.g. "lead developer", "analyst", art director.

In addition to the roles above, work itself must insured. It can be distributed among the group members and/or given to specialists, e.g. makers, data analysts, technicians,....

List of general group work role models in education

Below we include lists of roles found on the web (randomly picked and sorted for now).

Most text is quoted as in the original, but we changed the formatting and also omitted text like "Is responsible for" that introduces role functions.

Collaborative Learning Guide

Source: Collaborative Learning Guide (PDF) handout, Illinois State Board of Education, retrieved July 10 2017.

Role name Function
  • Keeps group on task and verifies that all contribute.
  • Takes notes on important thoughts expressed in the group.
  • Writes final summary.
  • Shares summary of group with large group. Speaks for the group, not just personal view.
Materials Manager:
  • Picks up, distributes, collects, turns in, or puts away materials.
Time Keeper:
  • Keeps track of time and reminds group how much time is left.
  • Checks for accuracy and clarity of thinking during discussions.
  • Checks written work and tracks poin


De Laat & Marten [1] in a CSCL study defined the following roles (p. 16 ss). “These roles focus on tasks required to support the overall collaborative learning and tutoring process. By giving each member some explicit responsibility for the community’s coordination of their collaborative learning a heterogeneous community is created that may be able to accomplish something that an individual could not achieve alone (Johnson and Johnson, 1999a).”

role name function
Discussion manager
  • Overall coordination
  • Learning agenda
Process manager
  • Evaluation of the processes of the participants. This includes keeping contact, promoting active participation, assessing the quality of interactions, stimulating the cohesion of the community.
Content manager
  • Evaluates and structures the content of contributions.
Knowledge manager
  • Guides the discussion process, e.g. provides summaries, manage knowledge produced, keep track of decisions.
Technical manager
  • Provides information about how to work with the programs, finds solutions for technical problems.

Doing Cooperative learning, group roles

Source: Group Roles, Arhive, National Institute for Science education, retrieved July 10, 2017.

Role name Function
Group facilitator:
  • moderates discussions,
  • keeps the group on task,
  • assures work is done by all,
  • makes sure all have opportunity to participate and learn.
  • monitors time and moves group along so that they complete the task in the available time
  • keeps area clean
  • assumes role of any missing group member if there is no wildcard member.
  • takes notes of the group's discussion
  • prepares a written conclusion.
  • makes sure that all group members understand the concepts and the group's conclusions.
  • restates the group's conclusions or answers.
  • relates the discussion with prior concepts and knowledge.
  • gets needed materials
  • is the liaison between groups and between their group and the instructor.
  • assumes role of any missing member.

Student roles

Source: The following two groups of roles have been copied from Student Roles, Teaching Entry Level GeoScience, retrieved July 10, 2017. This list is based on the "Doing CL, group roles" above.

Potential Project Roles

Role name Function
Leader/Editor: This student is in charge of organizing the final product of the project, be it a paper, a presentation, etc. That doesn't mean technical details, but of making sure that the project meets the standards set out by the instructor (often as a rubric), plus any extras stipulated by the group. These standards generally include punctuality and completeness.
Recorder/Secretary: This person takes notes whenever the group meets and keeps track of group data/sources/etc. This person distributes these notes to the rest of the group highlighting sections relevant for their parts of the project.
Checker: Someone needs to double-check data, bibliographic sources, or graphics for accuracy and correctness.
Spokesperson/Press Secretary/Webmaster: This person would be responsible for the technical details of the final product and would be ready to summarize the group's progress and findings to the instructor and to other groups.

Possible Discussion Roles

Role name Function
Facilitator/Encourager: This student gets discussion moving and keeps it moving, often by asking the other group members questions, sometimes about what they've just been saying.
Timekeeper: Someone needs to make sure that the group stays on track and gets through a reasonable amount of material in the given time period.
Summarizer: Every so often (perhaps once per question for a list of questions, or at the end for one question), this student provides a summary of the discussion for other students to approve or amend.
Reflector: This student will listen to what others say and explain it back in his or her own words, asking the original speaker if the interpretation is correct.
Elaborator: This person seeks connections between the current discussion and past topics or overall course themes.

Authentic Tasks, Group Work Roles and Gamification

The following model is described in Gutiérrez et al (2014): 1568-1569.

Role name Function
Facilitator: They are the leader of the group. They have to share out the work, encourage their classmates, meditate in the problems and try to keep everyone in the group motivated. At the end of the week, they have to send a justifiable report with a point score for every member in the group (following the criteria proposed in a rubric). Also, they have to keep the blog, and all the sites (social media, YouTube channel, Twitter...) of the group.
Historian: They are responsible to tell the history of the group during this week. They have to do a weekly feature in the blog. We encourage students to use different ways and formats to tell their history.
Explorer: Their work is to look beyond the wall of the classroom, looking for interesting information from social educators, associations, NGOs, secondary schools...They have to comment in the selected web or blogs and write a review in the blog. Also, they have to look at other blogs inside the classroom and make comments in one of them (the most interesting this week).
Content curator: Responsible for compiling and putting in a simplified way (map or diagram) all sources used during the tasks. The sources had to be put in a sequence about the use done. The sources had to be linked.
Translator: Responsible for defining the five most important themes about technology and social education worked in this week.
Thinker: It is one of the most important roles. They are responsible for reflecting the work done during the week. The thinker has to think about how they work and put in common the reflection of every member in the group.
Star (2): The star (two in every group), was responsible for bringing about the outcome of the work done during this week. Every week the products were different.

Roles in groups

Source: This list is reproduced from Roles in groups, University of Queensland, Student Services, retrieved July 10 2017

Role name Function
  • getting the group organised
  • keeping the group on task
  • organising tasks into sub-tasks
  • making sure everyone has a chance to contribute
  • ensure the group avoids premature agreement
  • ask questions that will lead to understanding
  • push the group to explore all possibilities
  • check for consensus among group members
  • record the group’s solutions
  • resolve conflicts
  • minimise interpersonal stress
  • ensure that members feel ‘safe’ to give opinions
  • re-emphasise the main points
  • check understanding
  • ensure that each member understands the task, their component and what they have to do

Cooperative group role cards

The following list is extracted from cards available at Cooperative Group Role Cards (PDF),, retrieved July 10, 2017.

Role name Function
  • Makes sure that every voice is heard
  • Focuses work around the learning task.
  • Sound bites : Let’s hear from ___ next.” “That’s interesting, but let’s get back to our task.”
  • Compiles group members’ ideas on collaborative graphic organizer.
  • Writes on the board for the whole class to see during the presentation
  • Sound bites : “I think I heard you say_____; is that right?”, “How would you like me to write this?”
Time Keeper:
  • Encourages the group to stay on task
  • Announces when time is halfway through and when time is nearly up
  • Sound bite : "We only have five minutes left. Let’s see if we can wrap up by then.”
  • Presents the group’s finished work to the class
  • Sound bite : “How would you like this to sound?”
Errand Monitor:
  • Briefly leaves the group to get supplies or to request help from the teacher when group members agree that they do not have the resources to solve the problem.

Sound bites : “Do you think it’s time to ask the teacher for help? “I’ll get an extra graphic organizer from the shelf.”

Possible roles on teams

Source: The following list is reproduced from the Assign roles document available through What are best practices for designing group projects? (Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University, retrieved July 10 2017).

Role name Function
Facilitator: Moderates team discussion, keeps the group on task, and distributes work.
Recorder: Takes notes summarizing team discussions and decisions, and keeps all necessary records.
Reporter: Serves as group spokesperson to the class or instructor, summarizing the group’s activities and/or conclusions.
Timekeeper: Keeps the group aware of time constraints and deadlines and makes sure meetings start on time.
Devil’s Advocate: Raises counter-arguments and (constructive) objections, introduces alternative explanations and solutions.
Harmonizer: Strives to create a harmonious and positive team atmosphere and reach consensus (while allowing a full expression of ideas.)
Prioritizer: Makes sure group focuses on most important issues and does not get caught up in details.
Explorer: Seeks to uncover new potential in situations and people (fellow team members but also clients) and explore new areas of inquiry.
Innovator: Encourages imagination and contributes new and alternative perspectives and ideas.
Checker: Checks to make sure all group members understand the concepts and the group’s conclusions.
Runner: Gets needed materials and is the liaison between groups and between their group and the instructor.
Wildcard: Assumes the role of any missing member and fills in wherever needed.

Group work role cards

Source: The following elements have been extracted from cards, available at Group work role cards, Makesenstraining, TES, retrieved July 10, 2017.

Role name Function
  • Making sure everyone does their job and helps
  • Making sure the group completes the task on time
  • Making notes about what the group does
  • Reporting what the group has done at the end of the task
Ideas person:
  • Thinking up ideas to help the group solve problems
  • Explaining your ideas to the leader
  • Trying to think of what might go wrong
  • Explaining your ideas to the leader
  • Looking out for who has too much to do and offering help
  • Telling the leader who you have decided to help
  • Finding ways to encourage others.
  • Making sure everyone works well together
  • Looking after the tools and materials
  • Making sure everyone has the tools and materials to do their job
  • Making things that the group needs to complete the task
  • Checking with the leader that you are making what is needed
  • Writing about what your group decides, and does.
  • Helping the reporter to explain about your group at the end of the exercise
  • Reading the instructions for the exercise to others in your group
  • Explaining the instructions to other people in the group

Group roles

Source: Teaching Channel (Video).

Role name Function
  • Organizes the group
  • Ensures deadlines are met
  • Keeps people on track
  • Helps everyone
Creative Director
  • Has ideas
  • Develops other peoples ideas
  • Ensures all work is "innovative"
Art Director
  • Turns ideas into designs
  • Makes and helps others make
  • Creates helps other create
  • Finds out
  • Gathers information
  • Works with others to help them use the information

Assigning Roles for Group Work

Source: Assigning Roles for Group Work, Facing History and Ourselves (retrieved July 10 2017).

  • facilitator,
  • recorder,
  • presenter,
  • timekeeper,
  • artist

Individual Tasks

Source: The following list was extracted from Cooperative Learning: How to Assign Meaningful Tasks to Group Members, Chad Mannis, Daily Teaching tools, retrieved July 10 2017.

Role name Function
The Facilitator:
  • provides leadership and direction for the group.
  • leads discussions.
  • suggests solutions to team problems.
  • helps members clarify points.
  • protects members from attack.
  • makes sure that every voice is heard.
  • focuses work around the learning task.
  • says, "Let's hear from_____next."
  • says, "That's interesting, but let's get back to our task."
The Recorder:
  • keeps a public record of the team's ideas and progress.
  • checks to be sure that ideas are clear and accurate.
  • uses charts, multiple colors, and other techniques to highlight and summarize the ideas of the team.
  • says, "I think I heard you say_____; is that right?"
  • says, "How would you like me to write this?"
The Summarizer:
  • restates the group's conclusions and responses.
  • prepares a summary of the group's efforts.
  • checks for clarity of understanding.
  • says, "Does this accurately reflect what we've done today?"
  • says, "Have I left out anything important here?"
The Presenter:
  • regularly contributes to the team's efforts.
  • presents the group's finished work to the class.
  • says, "How would you like this to sound?"
  • says, "How much of what we discussed should be shared with the class?"

The autors also make the following suggestion for larger groups

Role name Function
The Data Collector: collects and records data for the activity.
The Checker: keeps track of the group’s progress toward its goals.
The Elaborator: connects discussions with prior material and activities.
The Encourager: praises and affirms. Records positive comments and actions.
The Materials Manager: gets and returns supplies and materials.
The Timekeeper: monitors time and helps to keep the group on task.

List of specific role model sets in education

De Bono's thinking hats

According to wikipedia (retrieved July 10, 2017), Six Thinking Hats is a system designed by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six colored hats. "Six Thinking Hats" and the associated idea parallel thinking provide a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively”.

Contents of the following table were extracted from the Wikipedia article:

Perceived Role name Description
Managing (Blue): what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal? Can you look at the big picture.
Information (White): considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
Emotions (Red): intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
Discernment (Black): logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative. Practical, realistic.
Optimistic response (Yellow): logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony. Sees the brighter, sunny side of situations.
Creativity (Green): statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. Thinks creatively, outside the box.

These six modes of thinking then could be organized in sequences, that are also described in the Wikipedia article. Also read The six hats classroom strategy and De Bono's own short page.

Discussants for a presentation

We use this scenario when students give talks in class. Roles may change according to the nature of the talk. Roles turn, i.e. after each talk the "tokens" are shifted to the next person.

Perceived Role name Description
Questioner: Will ask at least one interesting and challenging question
Quality evaluator: Will give a critique of the formal quality of the presentation
Academic critique: Will comment on the academic foundations of the talk
Improvement suggester: Will make at least one suggestion for improvement on the project presented

Self-Rated Group Role

Nokelainen et al (2003), defined self-rated group roles that models how members could perceive their role in a group. This taxonomy is based on a 52-item questionnaire that includes two scales: 1) group Roles, and 2) social Interdependence.

Perceived Role name Description
Rejection: A rejected person feels hurt, if someone disagrees with his/her ideas and opinions. S/he thinks that others dislike him/her or that they are angry with him/her when they disagree with s/he. S/he wants to live without disagreements.
Dominance: A dominant person has a strong opinion of almost everything. S/he likes argumentation and when s/he gets involved in an argument with others, s/he will become more and more certain that s/he is correct, and argue more and more strongly for his/her own point of view. S/he tries to overpower them who disagree with s/he.
Encouraging: The factor describes a person who gives power and belief that work of group members is worthwhile. S/he expresses his/her willingness to cooperate with other group members. S/he encourages all members to participate and gives support in difficult situations. S/he is always ready to help if someone needs his/her help.
Conforming: A conformist is a person who facilitates group work. Group members have influence to his/her opinions. S/he conforms easily to the group's norms, rules and decisions. Ability to adapt different situations reduces conflicts inside the group.
Sharing know how: Groups need these kinds of persons who share their information, ideas and opinions. Sharing know how promotes group work. This kind of person is open and cooperative with entire group. S/he wants to promote the success of all members and the group as a whole by sharing his/her resources for good of the group.
Avoidance: This kind of person tries to avoid conflict situations and individuals who argue with him/her. S/he keeps his/her ideas and opinions to himself/herself when others might disagree with him/her. In conflict situations s/he

stays quiet. If s/he stays quiet in Web-based courses s/he does not exist for other members of the group.

Social interdepence can be represented with a three factor solution (1) Individualistic, (2) Competitive, and (3) Cooperative.

List of models in management

Belbin model

The model of Belbin (2011) aims for balanced teams that include individuals with specific capacities, ie. strengths that combined, create a succesful team. Capacities also include allowable weaknesses.

The model presented in his web page, a handout for students (PDF) and the 2011 book includes nine team roles.

Contents of the following table were taken from Wikipedia's Team Role Inventories page. We divided entries intro strengh and weaknesses.

Strengh name Strength Weaknesses
Completer-Finisher (CF): The Completer Finisher is a perfectionist and will often go the extra mile to make sure everything is "just right," and the things he or she delivers can be trusted to have been double-checked and then checked again. The Completer Finisher has a strong inward sense of the need for accuracy, and sets his or her own high standards rather than working on the encouragement of others. They may frustrate their teammates by worrying excessively about minor details and by refusing to delegate tasks that they do not trust anyone else to perform.
Co-ordinator (CO): A Co-ordinator is a likely candidate for the chairperson of a team, since they have a talent for stepping back to see the big picture. Co-ordinators are confident, stable and mature and because they recognise abilities in others, they are very good at delegating tasks to the right person for the job. The Co-ordinator clarifies decisions, helping everyone else focus on their tasks. Co-ordinators are sometimes perceived to be manipulative and will tend to delegate all work, leaving nothing but the delegating for them to do.
Implementer (IMP): The Implementer takes their colleagues' suggestions and ideas and turns them into positive action. They are efficient and self-disciplined, and can always be relied on to deliver on time. They are motivated by their loyalty to the team or company, which means that they will often take on jobs everyone else avoids or dislikes. Implementors may be seen as closed-minded and inflexible since they will often have difficulty deviating from their own well-thought-out plans, especially if such a deviation compromises efficiency or threatens well-established practices.
Monitor Evaluator (ME): Monitor Evaluators are fair and logical observers and judges of what is going on in the team. Since they are good at detaching themselves from bias, they are often the ones to see all available options with the greatest clarity and impartiality. They take a broad view when problem-solving, and by moving slowly and analytically, will almost always come to the right decision. Monitor evaluators can become very critical, damping enthusiasm for anything without logical grounds, and they have a hard time inspiring themselves or others to be passionate about their work.
Plant (PL): Plants are creative, unorthodox and generators of ideas. If an innovative solution to a problem is needed, a Plant is a good person to ask. A good Plant will be bright and free-thinking. Plants can tend to ignore incidentals. The Plant might be caricatured as the absent-minded professor/inventor, and often has a hard time communicating ideas to others. Multiple Plants in a team can lead to misunderstandings, as many ideas are generated without sufficient discernment or the impetus to follow the ideas through to action. Plants can also create problems with the timing of their ideas. The fact that the team has decided on a valid way forward and is now in the implementation stage will not stop the Plant from coming up with new solutions and disrupting the implementation process.
Resource Investigator (RI): The Resource Investigator gives a team a rush of enthusiasm at the start of the project by vigorously pursuing contacts and opportunities. He or she is focused outside the team, and has a finger firmly on the pulse of the outside world. Where a Plant creates new ideas, a Resource Investigator will quite happily appropriate them from other companies or people. A good Resource Investigator is a maker of possibilities and an excellent networker.

Has a tendency to lose momentum towards the end of a project and to forget to follow things up.

Shaper (SH): The Shaper is a task-focused individual who pursues objectives with vigour and who is driven by tremendous energy and the need to achieve. For the Shaper, winning is the name of the game. The Shaper provides the necessary drive to ensure that the team is kept moving and does not lose focus or momentum. Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extraverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent. Shapers could risk becoming aggressive and bad-humoured in their attempts to get things done. Shapers often see obstacles as exciting challenges and they tend to have the courage to push on when others feel like quitting.
Specialist (SP): Specialists are passionate about learning in their own particular field. As a result, they are likely to be a fountain of knowledge and will enjoy imparting this knowledge to others. They also strive to improve and build upon their expertise. If there is anything they do not know the answer to, they will happily go and find out. Specialists bring a high level of concentration, ability, and skill in their discipline to the team, but can only contribute on that specialism. Specialist will tend to be uninterested in anything which lies outside its narrow confines.
Team Worker (TW): A Teamworker is the oil between the cogs that keeps the machine that is the team running smoothly. They are good listeners and diplomats, talented at smoothing over conflicts and helping parties understand one another without becoming confrontational. Since the role can be a low-profile one, the beneficial effect of a Teamworker can go unnoticed and unappreciated until they are absent, when the team begins to argue, and small but important things cease to happen. Because of an unwillingness to take sides, a Teamworker may not be able to take decisive action when it's needed.

Star Model

The Star Roles Model developed by [Bene & Sheats] defines, according to [ Wikipedia] the “positions managers and mentors adopt when guiding direct-reports and mentees”. The model distinguishes between inner guidance (based on insight that the mentor has about the mentee) and outer guidance more related to context.

The following list was extracted from Star Roles Model on July 10 2017.

Mentor role name Function
Inner roles
Greater Expert: bringing in own knowledge and sharing this with the person being guided/mentored - having the comfort and knowledge to advise technically, procedurally and personally - based on experience and sourced knowledge
Critical Partner: brings personal challenge and structured dialogue to the interaction relies on socratic questioning to help the other person realise the truth of the situation and challenge their thinking with the aim of expanding the dialogue and their sphere of consideration.
Sympathetic Ear: provides a non-judgmental sounding board for the mentee to discuss issues and challenges - establishes a secure conversational environment and falls into the 'friend/confidant role
Outer roles
Background Champion: works within the organisation to secure wider support, input or change to assist the mentee in achieving their aims - lends their name and weight to the issue and is happy to be quoted as support for the work
Role Model: bases conversations around challenge on their own direct experience and personal approach to problems - gives mentees steer through "I would..." conversations that educate through replication of their own success rather than self exploration and learning
Cultural Navigator: imparts detailed, personal knowledge of the cultural flows and key figures within the organisation - uses personal experience and opinion of individuals, teams and departments to shape a route through the challenge for the individual

Mintzberg management roles

Mintzberg defined 10 roles for managers. These can be taken by on single manager but also inspire role distribution in team work.

The following definitions were taken from Additional Roles and Skills of Managers, Boundless resources, retrieved July 10, 2017, CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

Negotiator: represents the organization at major negotiations.

Role name Function
Figurehead: symbolic head; performs a number of routine duties of a legal or social nature.
Leader: motivates and activates subordinates; performs staffing, training, and associated duties.
Liaison: maintains a self-developed network of outside contacts and informers who provide favors and information.
Mentor: seeks and receives a wide variety of special information (much of it current) to develop a thorough understanding of the organization and environment; emerges as the nerve center of internal and external information for the organization.
Disseminator: transmits information received from outsiders or from other subordinates to members of the organization. Some information is factual; some involves interpretation and integration of diverse value positions of organizational influences. Disseminating what is of value, and how, is a critical informational role.
Spokesman: transmits information (plans, policies, results, etc.) within and outside of the organization; serves as an expert on the organization's industry.
Entrepreneur: searches the organization and its environment and initiates improvement projects to bring about change; supervises design of certain projects as well.
Disturbance Handler: takes corrective action when the organization faces important, unexpected disturbances.
Resource Allocator: allocates the organization's resources; makes or approves of all significant organizational decisions.


Cited with footnotes

  1. De Laat, M., & Lally, V. (2005). Investigating group structure in CSCL: Some new approaches. Information Systems Frontiers, 7(1), 13–25.


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