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15 DECEMBER 2015

The place and value of research modelled on generalisable simplicity

"The health professional education community is struggling with a number of issues regarding the place and value of research in the field, including: the role of theory-building versus applied research; the relative value of generalisable versus contextually rich, localised solutions, and the relative value of local versus multi-institutional research. In part, these debates are limited by the fact that the health professional education community has become deeply entrenched in the notion of the physical sciences as presenting a model for 'ideal' research. The resulting emphasis on an 'imperative of proof' in our dominant research approaches has translated poorly to the domain of education, with a resulting denigration of the domain as 'soft' and 'unscientific' and a devaluing of knowledge acquired to date. Similarly, our adoption of the physical sciences' 'imperative of generalisable simplicity' has created difficulties for our ability to represent well the complexity of the social interactions that shape education and learning at a local level."

(Glenn Regehr, 2010)

Regehr, G. (2010). "It’s NOT rocket science: rethinking our metaphors for research in health professions education". Medical Education, 44(1), 31-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03418.x



applied researchappropriately complex representationclinical situationscomplex phenomenacomplexity • contextually rich solutions • devaluing of knowledge • dominant research approaches • education • education and learning • epistemological positionsgeneralisabilitygeneralisable simplicity • generalisable solutions • generalised models • Glenn Regehr • health education • health professional • health professional education • ideal research • imperative of generalisable simplicityimperative of proof • local research • localised solutions • multi-institutional research • myth of neutralityperils of reductionismphysical sciences • place of research • questioning assumptions • research in the field • research modelresearch-practice gulfrich descriptions • role of theory • role of theory-building • social interactions • soft science • theory building • unscientific practices • value of research


Simon Perkins
23 OCTOBER 2014

Describing social and material interactions through formal methods

"To some extent, Formal Methods sit uneasily within interaction design. Human beings are rich, complex, nuanced, engaged in subtle and skilful social and material interactions; reducing this to any sort of formal description seems at best simplistic. And yet that is precisely what we have to do once we create any sort of digital system: whether an iPhone or an elevator, Angry Birds or Facebook, software is embedded in our lives. However much we design devices and products to meet users' needs or enrich their experiences of life, still the software inside is driven by the soulless, precise, and largely deterministic logic of code. If you work with computers, you necessarily work with formalism.

Formal Methods sit in this difficult nexus between logic and life, precision and passion, both highlighting the contradictions inherent in interaction design and offering tools and techniques to help understand and resolve them.

In fact, anyone engaged in interaction design is likely to have used some kind of formal representation, most commonly some sort of arrow and sketch diagram showing screens/pages in an application and the movements between them. While there are many more complex formal notations and methods, these simple networks of screens and links demonstrate the essence of a formal representation. Always, some things are reduced or ignored (the precise contents of screens), whilst others are captured more faithfully (the pattern of links between them). This enables us to focus on certain aspects and understand or analyse those aspects using the representation itself (for example notice that there are some very long interaction paths to quite critical screens)."

(Alan J. Dix, 2013)

Dix, Alan J. (2013): Formal Methods. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). "The Encyclopedia of Human–Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.". Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Available online at https://www.interaction–


abstract system models • Alan Dix • arrow and sketch diagram • context awareness • context-aware interfaces • design methods • design products • deterministic logic • dialogue models • digital devices • digital interactions • digital system • executable models • formal abstraction • formal analysis • formal description • formal design methods • formal methods • formal notation • formal representations • formalised principleshuman-computer interactioninteraction designInteraction Design Foundation • material interactions • notation • physical context • physical interactionphysigrams • product design process • product development methodologyrepresentationrich descriptionsrich user experienceshaping our relationship to the material worldsocial interactionssoftware modellingspace syntax • specification language • state machines • state transition network • structured approach • system behaviour • tangible interfacestechnology affordancesusability testinguser experienceuser-based evaluationworld around us • world representations


Simon Perkins
16 MARCH 2013

Complex representations not simple quantified measurement

"Primarily because of its association with achievements in the physical sciences, quantified measurement seems a step toward enhanced precision. But, precision, as understood here, means more than reliability and validity; it also requires appropriately complex representation of the target construct. In phenomenological terms, precision refers to the distinctiveness that fosters reliability, the coherence that assures validity, and the richness that is appropriate to the targeted phenomenon. First, distinctiveness is the extent to which a phenomenon is discriminable from others. Judgments about distinctiveness require more than explicit (e.g., operational) definitions. They require the capacity to anticipate attributes that remain implicit in even the most explicitly conceived phenomenon and, on the basis of those implicit meanings, to consistently verify that phenomenon's presence or absence. Second, coherence is the extent to which judgments about the attribute structure of a particular phenomenon are congruent. Short of logical entailment but beyond associative contingency, judgments about coherence require consideration of both the explicit and implicit meanings of the attribute structure they describe. Third, richness is the extent to which judgments about a phenomenon capture its complexity and intricacy. Richness entails full differentiation of a phenomenon's attributes, identification of its attribute structure, and appreciation of its structural incongruities."

(Don Kuiken and David Miall, 2001)

[4] profiles and the ideal prototype. This numeric assessment of degree involves profiles of attributes rather than individual attributes. Although we appreciate the potential importance of the latter (see note 3), we have not attempted to address the analytic problems that arise from the combination of nominal and ordinal variables in estimates of profile similarity. It should be noted, however, that some available software facilitates the assessment of ordinal information during attribute identification (cf. KUCKARTZ 1995; WEITZMAN & MILES 1995). The possibility of coordinating ordinal and nominal attribute judgments deserves further consideration.

Kuiken, Don & Miall, David S. (2001). "Numerically Aided Phenomenology: Procedures for Investigating Categories of Experience." [68 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(1), Art. 15, http://nbn–– fqs0101153.


2001academic journalappropriately complex representation • associative contingency • coherencecomplexity • David Miall • differentiation • discriminable • distinctiveness • Don Kuiken • Eben Weitzman • explicit definitionsexplicit knowledgeexplicit meaningexplicit objectivesexplicitly definedForum Qualitative Social ResearchFQSimplicit informationimplicit meaning • implicitly • imprecision • intricacyinvestigative praxis • judgments • logical entailment • Matthew Miles • online journaloperational criteriaoperational definitionsphenomenologicalphenomenonphysical sciencesprecisionqualitative researchquantification of variablesquantified measurementreliabilityreliability and validityrich descriptions • richness • structural incongruities • target construct • targeted phenomenon • Udo Kuckartz • validity


Simon Perkins
17 JANUARY 2013

The Qualitative Research Interview

"While all interviews are used to get to know the interviewee better, the purpose of that knowing varies according to the research question and the disciplinary perspective of the researcher. Thus, some research is designed to test a priori hypotheses, often using a very structured interviewing format in which the stimulus (questions) and analyses are standardised, while other research seeks to explore meaning and perceptions to gain a better understanding and/or generate hypotheses. This latter research generally requires some form of qualitative interviewing which encourages the interviewee to share rich descriptions of phenomena while leaving the interpretation or analysis to the investigators. The purpose of the qualitative research interview is to contribute to a body of knowledge that is conceptual and theoretical and is based on the meanings that life experiences hold for the interviewees. In this article we review different qualitative interview formats with a focus on the face–to–face, in–depth qualitative research interview and conclude with a discussion of related technical and ethical issues."

(Barbara DiCicco–Bloom and Benjamin F. Crabtree, 2006)

Barbara DiCicco–Bloom and Benjamin F. Crabtree (2006). "The Qualitative Research Interview", Medical Education, Volume 40, Issue 4, pages 314–321, Wiley Online Library


a priori hypotheses • Barbara DiCicco-Bloom • Benjamin Crabtree • body of knowledge • disciplinary perspective • ethical issues • explore meaning • explore perceptions • face-to-faceface-to-face interview • generate hypotheses • in-depth interview • interpretationinterview (research method)interviewinginterviews • investigators • life experiences • qualitative data • qualitative interview formats • qualitative interviewing • qualitative interviewsqualitative research • qualitative research interview • researchresearch interviewsresearch questionrich descriptions • standardised data • structured interviewing


Simon Perkins

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