In most cases the modeling process starts with a conceptual model. A conceptual model is a qualitative description of the system. A good conceptual model is half the modeling effort. To create a conceptual model we need to study the system and collect as much information as possible about the system itself, and about similar systems studied elsewhere. When creating a conceptual model we start with the goal of the study and then try to explain the system that we study in terms that would match the goal. In designing the conceptual model we decide what temporal, spatial, and structural resolutions are needed for our study to reach the goal. Reciprocally, the conceptual model becomes important in part to define the goal. In many cases the goal of the study is quite vague, and it is only after the conceptual model is created that the goals of modeling can become clear. Modeling is an essentially iterative process. We cannot prescribe a sequence of steps that takes us to the goal. It is an adaptive process when many times the target is adjusted and moved as we go, depending both on our modeling progress and on the external conditions that may be changing the scope of the study. Building a good conceptual model is an important step on this path.
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