Daily Reflection 09: Design Research & Epistemology

The most fruitful part of today came from a short reading titled Epistemological Positions in Design Research: A Brief Review of the Literature by Luke Feast and Gavin Melles. Coming out of my research topic presentation last week, I gave myself the goal of really getting a hold of what research is and what research in design is all about. Throughout grad school I had a chance to learn a good amount about research, but the depth of my personal research was rather limited. Reading a few articles about the current state of design research has pushed me to seek a thorough understanding of what research is before I undertake the process myself. Today I started digging around for some articles related to the topic, and although Epistemological Positions in Design Research provides only a cursory look at research, it seemed like an accessible starting point — especially as it was written from a design perspective.

In particular, the article highlighted a definition of the research process and the relationships among epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology, and methods. The reading reinforced what I learned last week in my trip to Gothenburg. Whatever epistemological stance I choose will influence the way I practice research. From their lit. review, Feast and Melles highlight three epistemological approaches to design research: objectivist, constructivist, and subjectivist. While they don’t compare or critique the approaches, they do describe how the epistemological stance affects the view and practice of research. I haven’t done quite enough reading to position myself yet, however I am starting to understand the need for theoretically grounded research. In the conclusion to the article the authors reinforce the interdisciplinary nature of design, and that design research should reflect the interdisciplinarity of the practice. Inevitably I will be revisiting the topic of research for the foreseeable future. It will certainly be fun to look back on these early thoughts once I have taken some classes (such as the Philosophy of Science), and actually set up my research project.