The way knowledge is represented influences the effectiveness with which that knowledge can be shared and reconstructed. Of particular interest to this study is the hypertext knowledge representation. Based on the schema theory, we propose a model explaining the effect of the hypertext knowledge representation on the user's problem solving performance. The sophistication of the knowledge structure that the user can construct from the hypertext knowledge representation is proposed as an intervening variable mediating the effect of hypertext on the problem solving performance. According to our model, the hypertext representation of the "collective schemata" of a group of experts allows the user to acquire a more complex and better integrated knowledge structure that is more similar to the experts' than does a linear representation. The model further hypothesizes that the complexity, integration and degree of similarity of an individual's schemata to that of domain experts in turn improves significantly the individual's problem solving performance. Compared to the linear representation, the hypertext representation of expert knowledge is expected to improve the quality of problem solving in the organization through the facilitation of the acquisition of more sophisticated knowledge structures by the users. A field experiment was used to verify the hypotheses of our model. This research demonstrates the important role of hypertext knowledge representation in supporting knowledge construction and problem solving.
Keywords: Hypertext, knowledge representation, knowledge elicitation, knowledge construction, problem solving