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Which clippings match 'Generating Theory' keyword pg.1 of 1
24 FEBRUARY 2013

Theory construction problems in design research

"Until recently, the field of design was an adjunct to art and craft. With the transformation of design into an industrial discipline come responsibilities that the field of design studies has only recently begun to address.

This transformation means that design is becoming a generalizable discipline that may as readily be applied to processes, media interfaces or information artefacts as to tools, clothing, furniture or advertisements. To understand design as a discipline that can function within any of these frames means developing a general theory of design. This general theory should support application theories and operational programmes. Moving from a general theory of design to the task of solving problems involves a significantly different mode of conceptualization and explicit knowledge management than adapting the tacit knowledge of individual design experience.

So far, most design theories involve clinical situations or micro–level grounded theories developed through induction. This is necessary, but it is not sufficient for the kinds of progress we need.

In the social sciences, grounded theory has developed into a robust and sophisticated system for generating theory across levels. A 'grounded' theory is an inductive theory emerging or rising from the ground of direct, empirical experience. These theories ultimately lead to larger ranges of understanding, and the literature of grounded theory is rich in discussions of theory construction and theoretical sensitivity (Glaser 1978, 1992; Glaser and Strauss 1967; Strauss 1991; Strauss and Corbin 1990, 1994).

One of the deep problems in design research is the failure to engage in grounded theory, developing theory out of practice. Instead, many designers confuse practice with research. Rather than developing theory from practice through articulation and inductive inquiry, some designers mistakenly argue that practice is research. From this, they claim that practicebased research is itself a form of theory construction."

(Ken Friedman, 2008, pp.153–154)

Ken Friedman (2008). "Research into, by and for design." Journal of Visual Arts Practice Volume 7 Number 2. Intellect Ltd. Article. English Language. doi: 10.1386/jvap.7.2.153/1


2008 • Anselm Strauss • application theories • art and craft • Barney Glaser • Christopher Fraylingclinical researchclinical situationsconceptualisationdesign disciplinedesign fielddesign researchdesign studies • design theories • Donald Schon • empirical experience • empirical-analyticexplicit knowledge • general theory of design • generalisabilitygenerating theorygrounded theoryHerbert Read • individual design experience • inductive enquiryinductive reasoning • inductive theory • Journal of Visual Art Practice • Juliet Corbin • Ken FriedmanMichael Polanyi • micro-level grounded theories • Nigel Cross • pamphlet • Peter Bergerpractice-based research • research by design • research by or through designresearch for design • research into design • research through designsocial sciencestacit knowledge • theoretical sensitivity • theory building • theory construction • Thomas KuhnThomas Luckmann


Simon Perkins
20 DECEMBER 2012

How to design your research project

"What are your beliefs about how valid knowledge can be obtained? This will influence your approach to your research. If you are a positivist, for example, (who believes that valid knowledge can be obtained through a scientific approach), you are likely to choose a quantitative research method that begins with a theory and tests that theory. If you favour the social constructivist view that meaning is subjective, gained through interactions with others, you would be more likely to choose qualitative research methods that explores themes. Qualitative research is about generating theory and finding patterns of meaning."

(Centre for Academic Development and Quality, Nottingham Trent University)



Abbas Tashakkori • Anthony Onwuegbuzie • audiencebeliefs • Centre for Academic Development and Quality • data collection • epistemological approach • epistemological beliefs • epistemologyethical considerationsethical issues • existing theory • experimental designs • generating theory • interactions with others • John Creswell • Journal of Mixed Methods Research • Judith Bell • Mark Weinstein • Martyn Denscombe • Matt Henn • meaning is subjective • mixed methods • mixed methods research • new knowledge • new research methods • new theory • Nick Foard • non-experimental design • patterns of meaningpositivistqualitative research • quantitative research methods • research • research aims • research approachresearch contributionresearch designresearch disseminationresearch methodologyresearch projectresearch questions • research theory • scientific approach • social constructivistsocial sciencetriangulationvalid knowledge


Simon Perkins

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