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Which clippings match 'Empirical-analytic' 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
16 OCTOBER 2009

What is Interpretive Research?

"Interpretive methods of research start from the position that our knowledge of reality, including the domain of human action, is a social construction by human actors and that this applies equally to researchers. Thus there is no objective reality which can be discovered by researchers and replicated by others, in contrast to the assumptions of positivist science"

(Geoff Walsham, 1993)

Walsham, G. Interpreting Information Systems in Organizations, Wiley, Chichester, 1993.

[Approaches to research that are 'interpretive' sit in contrast to empirical–analytic approaches.]


Simon Perkins

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