This paper presents a protocol study conducted with mechanical engineering students, where the participants developed a function structure model for a novel design problem. A modeling activity video was recorded for each participant and coded using a protocol analysis. Pauses in the modeling process were analyzed to identify patterns based on pause time and frequency, distribution of pauses over the modeling activity, events following the pauses, and elements added after pauses. Results show that participants used an average of 38% of the modeling time in pauses with a pause frequency of 41%. Moreover, participants were also found to spend more time in pauses during the second and third quarters of the modeling activity. Subsequently, an analysis of pause lengths revealed three different pause groups corresponding to short, intermediate, and long pauses. Participants added elements to the model significantly more frequently, compared to editing and deleting elements. Instances of deleting were found to be more likely to occur after longer pauses, whereas editing was done more frequently after shorter pauses. Participants paused more frequently before adding flows, and more frequent pauses were observed before labeling function compared to adding function blocks. The flows were found to be labeled after pauses infrequently. Finally, limitations of the study are discussed, and future research questions have been identified.

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