A map of Design Science Research

The images presented here are the focus of this article. I will summarize what I got from the images, and why I think they’re useful.

The ‘finished’ image roughly positions various Design Science Research techniques on two dimensions of continuous space.  The X-dimension approximates the levels of participation in the design process between experts (to the left) and users (to the right). The Y-dimension approximates whether the approach is led by research (to the bottom) or by solving problems (to the top).

A research question can be approached with techniques from anywhere on the map – indeed if we had infinite budgets, every research question could be approached with all of the techniques. With finite resources, how effectively a technique gets answers to a research question is important. I’d like to know if there is any research done on the heuristic effectiveness of techniques for solving various problems – for example, is it better to tackle a new problem with expert or participatory mindset. I imagine working closely with users will give an excellent feel for a new problem space, but that only experts will be capable of innovating in well-established problem spaces.

It’s interesting that the commentary on the article picks fault with the accuracy of the map. Researchers are a community, and at the moment the design research community seems pretty fragmented. There are clearly terms in circulation that are different, yet mean the same thing [design based research, design science research seem to be equivalent]. This map lays out one clear description of the field. It gives a concrete perception to discuss – rather than speculating, experts can ‘point’ say, “this looks wrong”. Perhaps it will eventually lead to a better standardization of terms, and a map that community experts all agree is correct.

The original article raises some interesting uses for the map, for me the most interesting one being to position your own research on the map, and then see if you can move your future research to a different area. Another use I see would be to repeat prior research with a technique from elsewhere on the map as a form of triangulation.

Based on article published in interactions – Designing games: why and how, Volume 15 Issue 6, November + December 2008 Pages 13-17


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