Design Science Research

My understanding

  • It is a methodology
  • Used when the aim of the research project is to create or design
  • Design science is a problem solving paradigm which seeks to create artifacts that are useful in practice (March & Smith 1995; Hevner et al. 2004)
  • Artifacts in many cases represent and constitute new phenomena that have not been explained or predicted in the behavioral sciences. This calls for a need for new theory development (Hevner et al. 2004).
  • Design science should be accepted as a solution-oriented approach complementing the explanatory behavioral approach (van Aken 2004; 2005).
  • March & Smith (1995) provide a research framework in which research activities in design science are classified as “build” and “evaluate”
IT artifacts are broadly categorized into four types:
  1. constructs or concepts form the vocabulary of a domain;
  2. a model is a set of propositions or statements expressing relationships among constructs;
  3. a method is a set of steps (an algorithm or guideline) used to perform a task;
  4. an instantiation is the realization of an artifact in its environment.

According to Hevner et al. (2004) design science research holds the potential for three types of research contributions:

  1. The Design Artifact ~ Most often, the contribution of design science research is the artifact itself, enabling the solution of theretofore unsolved problems by applying existing knowledge in new and innovative ways.
  2. Foundations ~ The creative development of novel, appropriately evaluated constructs, models, methods, or instantiations that extend and improve the existing foundations in the design science knowledge base are also important contributions. Even if the artifact turns out not to be useful in practice, it may still extend the knowledge base by, for instance, (partly) falsifying existing knowledge that has been applied in creating the artifact.
  3. Methodologies ~ The creative development and use of evaluation methods (e.g., experimental, analytical, observational, testing, and descriptive) and new evaluation metrics provide methodological contributions to the existing knowledge base.

What is DSR? Design Science Research - JP

Key reference: Design Science Research in Information Systems (2010) by Alan R. Hevner et al.

  • Generating ⇐⇒ Building knowledge (Owen, 1997)
  • Research = an activity that contributes to the understanding of a phenomenon (Kuhn, 1970)
  • This phenomenon can be natural or artificial
  • Initially known as Design Science now “officially” known as Design Science Research (in IS)
  • Lots of “design” in scientific endeavours: arts, engineering, computer science, management
  • A research paradigm where a designer answers questions relevant to human problems via the creation of innovative artefacts
  • Thereby contributing new knowledge to the body of scientific evidence
  • The designed artefacts should be both useful and fundamental to understanding the problem
Two complementary views on DSR
  • Design as a noun –> artefact
  • Design as a verb –> process
Importance of DSR (in IS):
  • Addresses the central role of IT in IS
  • Addresses the perceived lack of professional relevance of IS research
IT artefacts (or artifacts) can be:
  • Constructs (i.e. Vocabulary & symbols)
  • Models (abstractions and representations)
  • Methods (algorithms and practices)
  • Instantiations (implemented and prototype systems)
  • Better design theories
DSR addresses so-called "wicked problems":
  • Unstable/ill-defined requirements & contexts
  • Complex interactions between system components
  • Huge solution space (lots of choice in process & artefact design)
  • Dependent on high cognitive (creativity) & social (teamwork) human abilities
Design Science ... (Baskerville, 2008)
  • is not design
  • is not design theory
  • is not an IT artefact
  • is not methodology
  • is not action research
  • is not computer science
  • is not a separate academic discipline
  • is not new
Outputs of DSR:
  • Constructs (Vocabulary & symbols)
  • Models (abstractions and representations)
  • Methods (algorithms and practices)
  • Instantiations (implemented and prototype systems)
  • Better design theories
Possible Contribution to Knowledge: (Gregor & Hevner 2013 Framework)
  • Improvement ~ Invent new solution for known problem
  • Invention ~ Invent new solution for new problem
  • Exaptation ~ Extend or adapt known solution to new problem
Checklist for DSR: (Hevner 2010)
  1. What is the research question (design requirements)?
  2. What is the artifact? How is the artefact represented?
  3. What design processes (search heuristics) will be used to build the artifact?
  4. How are the artifact and the design processes grounded by the knowledge base? What, if any, theories support the artifact design and the design process?
  5. What evaluations are performed during the internal design cycles? What design improvements are identified during each design cycle?
  6. How is the artifact introduced into the application environment and how is it field tested? What metrics are used to demonstrate artifact utility and improvement over previous artifacts?
  7. What new knowledge is added to the knowledge base and in what form (e.g., peer-reviewed literature, meta-artifacts, new theory, new method)?
  8. Has the research question been satisfactorily addressed?

Key References: