ME8730: Research Methods for Collaborative Design

Course Description:

Advanced Methods for Engineering Design Research.  Topics of the course include:  case study, user study, and protocol study research methods for studying collaborative design; team dynamics and tools to manage interpersonal issues; communication tools and methods for design; project planning; and team motivation strategies.  Preq:  ME 8700 (or equivalent).


  1. To provide students with a foundation of conducting formal research in engineering design.
  2. To produce knowledgeable project managers through practice.
  3. To develop technical writing skills.

Course Sequence and Materials

2017 Summer School

2017-05-25-Integrated-Notes (updated with presentations from: Sen, Neyens, Shuffler, Szajnfarber, Cranmer).   (Please feel free to email for the presentation)

2017-05-12-Notes-to-print:  (May 12, 2017 – sequenced to proposed schedule; this is printed for the participating students)

UPDATED:  2017-05-16-Notes.

UPDATED:  2017-05-17-Notes.  (includes Designing Design Prompts by Dr. Chiradeep Sen).

UPDATED:  2017-05-18-Notes.  (includes the five designed experiments)

UPDATED:  2017-05-19-Notes.  (includes Observation Research by Dr. Marissa Shuffler)

Notes on Evaluation and Analysis (notes from Dr. David Neyens)

Notes on Protocol Analysis and Execution (notes from Dr. Seda McKilligan)

Notes on Case Study Research (notes from Dr. Zoe Szajnfarber)

  • Link to recorded Adobe Connect session with Dr. Szajnfarber (email Dr. Summers for passcode)

Notes on NASA Case Study (notes from Dr. Anna-Maria McGowan)


  • May 15 (Monday)
    • morning:  Course Overview & Overview of Design Research
    • mid-day:  Research Introductions (3 minute speed presentations by students on their own research)
    • afternoon:  Modeling and Simulation
  • May 16 (Tuesday)
    • morning:  Assessing Quality
    • mid-day:  Cognitive Experiments
    • afternoon:  Experimental Studies
  • May 17 (Wednesday)
    • morning:  Designing Design Problems (Chiradeep Sen from FIT)
    • mid-day/afternoon:  design experiments
  • May 18 (Thursday)
    • morning:  conduct experiments
    • afternoon:  Evaluation and Analysis (Dave Neyens from CU)
  • May 19 (Friday)
    • morning:  analyze experiments
    • afternoon:  Observation Training and Studies (Marissa Shuffler from CU)
  • May 20 (Saturday) –
    • ALL DAY:  Protocol Studies (Seda McKilligian from ISU)
  • May 21 (Sunday) – FREE DAY
  • May 22 (Monday)
    • morning:  Case Study Overview
    • afternoon:  Selecting Case Studies (Zoe Szajnfarber from GWU)
  • May 23 (Tuesday)
    • ALL DAY:  Survey Design (Gregory Cranmer from CU)
  • May 24 (Wednesday)
    • morning:  Interviewing
    • afternoon:  future of research in ESD
  • May 25 (Thursday)
    • morning:  workshopping research plans
    • afternoon:  Reflections on the Summer School
  • May 26 (Friday)
    • morning:  student visions for ESD research in 2030
    • afternoon:  NSF ESD discussion (Rich Malak from TAMU & NSF)

Research Manuals

Students will create a research manual based on the readings, discussion, and experiences for each of the three types of methods studied (case study, protocol analysis, and user study).  These manuals are intended to be used as guidelines for their own future research and should provide explicit instructions on how to conduct the research.  Students will submit these manuals periodically for peer and professor review.


  1. Overview
    • Antonsson:  Development and Testing of Hypotheses in Engineering Design Research
    • Durham:  The Need for Design Theory Research
    • Horvath:  A Treatise on Order in Engineering Design Research
    • Papalambros:  Design Research
    • Reich:  My Method is Better!
  2. Research Validation
    • Reich:  Layered Models of Research Methodologies
    • Mistree:  Validating Design Methods and Research
    • Strauss:  Grounded Theory Methodology
    • Eckert:  The Lure of the Measurable in Design Research
    • Dorst:  Design Research:  A Revolution-Waiting-to-Happen
    • Blessing:  Application of Methods from Social Sciences in Design Research
  3. Research Qualification
    • LeDain:  Assessing Design Research Quality
      • Papakonstantinou:  Simulation of Interactions and Emergent Failure Behavior
      • Ahmed:  Influence of Design Evaluations on Decision-Making
    • Lewis:  Can a House Without a Foundation Support Design?
    • Guba:  Criteria for Assessing the Trustworthiness
  4. Designer Experiments
    • Jansson:  Design Fixation
    • Ward:  Creative Cognition
    • Schunn:  Spontaneous Access and Analogical Incubation Effects (Article 2)
    • Shah:  Empirical Studies of Design Ideation
  5. Designer Experiment Examples
    • Campbell:  An Experimental Study on the Effects of Computational Design Tool
    • Jin:  Study of Mental Iteration in Different Design Situations
    • Wixon:  Qualitative Research Methods in Design and Development
    • Shah:  Collaborative Sketching (C-Sketch)
    • Wetmore:  Experimental Study of Influence of Group Familiarity and Information Sharing
    • Yang:  An Analysis of Sketching Skills
    • Linsey:  An Experimental Study of Group Idea Generation Techniques
    • Mocko:  The Effects of Language and Pruning on Function Structure Interpretability
  6. Protocol Studies (Recommended)
    • Ericsson:  How to Study Thinking in Everyday Life
    • Daly:  Design Heuristics in Engineering Concept Generation
    • Atman:  Mapping Between Design Activities and External Representations
    • Gero:  Understanding Conceptual Electronic Design Using Protocol Analysis
  7. Protocol Studies (Examples)
    • Chakrabarti:  Identification and Application of Requirements
    • Maher:  Co-Evolution as a Computational and Cognitive Model
    • Sen:  A Pilot Protocol Study
    • Ullman:  A Model of the Mechanical Design Process
    • Dorst:  Creativity in the Design Process
  8. Observational Studies
    • Salas:  The Assessment of Team Performance:  Observations and Needs
    • Waller:  Systematic Behavioral Observation
    • Marks:  Coding and Measurement
    • Stachowski:  Benefits of Flexible Team Interaction
    • Lehmann-Willenbrock:  How Fun Are Your Meetings?
  9. Case Study
    • Teegavarapu:  Case Study Method for Design Research
    • MacNealy:  Toward Better Case Study Research
  10. Case Study Examples
    • Sobek-2004:  Relating Design Activity to Quality of Outcome
    • Sobek-2005:  Adapting Real Options to New Product Development
    • Stowe:  Prototyping in Design of a Lunar Wheel
  11. Surveys
    • Creswell:  Survey Designs (Chapter 12)
  12. Interviewing
  13. Interviewing Examples
    • Achiche:  Fuzzy Decision Support for Tools Selection
    • Shankar:  Reasons for Change Propagation
    • Jagtap:  In-Service Information Required by Engineering Designers
    • Eckert:  Planning Development Processes for Complex Products
    • Almefelt:  Requirements Management in Practice