Summer School in ESD Research Methods for Case Study, Protocol Analysis, and Designer Experiments

CEDAR, with the support (pending) of the National Science Foundation, will be hosting a two week Summer School that will introduce graduate students to three research methods of case study, protocol analysis, and designer experiments.  This summer school is developed in direct response to needs expressed through the Design Society’s North American Committee and through NSF sponsored Design Circle Workshops of 2015 @ Clemson University and 2017 @ Georgia Tech.  Through NSF support, scholarships will be made available to 15 students to cover travel, housing, and program costs.  Students can apply for these scholarships following the steps below.

While the engineering and systems design research community has grown over the years, the opportunities for graduate students conducting research from a human-centric point of view has been limited.  This summer school program will introduce students to concrete research methods while practicing some of these methods in a controlled, guided environment.  We believe that this approach is efficient in providing graduate students with needed research training.  We can have a broad impact on the community by supporting smaller design research programs, consisting of one or two faculty, through this type of communal training.  It should be noted that the methods and techniques that the students will be taught are difficult to lear through textbooks (and there are not many engineering design research method textbooks available with clear operational guidance).  Rather, we believe that a preferred means of learning about these methods is through discussion, demonstration, and practice as guided by experts with varied experiences in the use of the methods.

Course website (reading materials and notes)


Registration Payment Page

Application Process

The timeline for the process is:

  • April 14:  application for the travel scholarship (submitted in a single PDF file to jsummer@clemson.edu)
  • April 15:  Decisions on travel scholarships
  • April 20:  Flight Arrangements coordinated through Clemson University
  • May 14:  arrive at Clemson (via GSP)
  • May 15-May 26:  Summer School
  • May 26-May 27:  depart from Clemson (via GSP)

Applicants should submit their materials by April 15 for full consideration.  The materials should include:

  1. Letter of Application from the student that explains why they are applying for the scholarship, how they will share their experiences with colleagues and fellow students at the home institution, an explanation of their current research, and the stage of the research (2 page limit)
  2. Letter of nomination from the advisor that states that the advisor will cover all additional costs not covered by the scholarship (1 page limit)
  3. A copy of the student’s current CV.

The applications will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Should be a current graduate student at the time of the summer school.  Ideally, the student should be in the pre-proposal phase of their studies in order to be able to implement the methods and techniques taught through the summer school.  Others (post-doc, faculty) are invited to attend, but will not be eligible for the scholarship.
  • Must have a commitment from the advisor to release the student during the two weeks of the summer school and to cover attendance costs (the scholarship should cover domestic airfare, local transportation, room and board, program materials, and program activities).  This will be demonstrated through the nomination letter from the advisor.
  • Should have a clear plan to share their experiences from the summer school with colleagues and fellow students at their home institution.
  • Students from international institutions are encouraged to apply to the program, but they are not eligible for the scholarship.
  • In order to provide students with broad and diverse experiences within the summer school, preferences will be given to students that help ensure a diverse program.  This diversity might include diversity of person, diversity of institution, diversity of discipline, diversity of research topic, diversity of geography, among others.

Topical Outline (general and draft)

  • Monday (May 15):  Broad Design Research Overview and Introductions
  • Tuesday (May 16):  Design Research Qualification and Validation
  • Wednesday (May 17):  Controlled Experimental Study (design problem, variable)
  • Thursday (May 18):  Controlled Experimental Study (analysis, application)
  • Friday (May 19):  Protocol Study (overview, protocol definition)
  • Saturday (May 20):  Social Activities (Hiking trips to local waterfalls)
  • Sunday (May 21):  Free day (study)
  • Monday (May 22):  Protocol Study (analysis)
  • Tuesday (May 23):  Case Study (overview, interview)
  • Wednesday (May 24):  Case Study (surveys)
  • Thursday (May 25):  Student Reflections and Reporting
  • Friday (May 26):  Summer School Wrap-up (NSF Panel on Future Research Topics)

Program Specifics


Housing and Board:  Campus apartments have been reserved for participants receiving the scholarships.  In addition, access to the campus cafeterias is included in the scholarships.

Domestic Air Travel will be arranged by Clemson University staff to simplify the process.  Requests will be considered, but no guarantees are made on scheduling requests.

Students with scholarships should not incur any out-of-pocket costs for the program except for personal incidentals.

For students seeking to attend the summer school without the scholarship, the program fee is $1,000 and includes room, board, materials, supplies, and social outings.  The fee does not include transportation to the program.

Guest Experts

Three Clemson faculty (outside of engineering design) have been invited to give guest lectures on topics including:  survey design, observational study planning, and statistical analysis for human subjects.  Additionally, experts from outside of Clemson have been invited to share their experiences in these research methods.  As commitments are secured the guest experts will be announced here.

  • Seda McKilligan, Associate Professor (seda@iastate.edu)
    • Protocol Studies
    • http://www.design.iastate.edu/faculty/seda/
    • Dr. McKilligan is an Associate Professor of Industrial Design.  She is also a faculty in Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program and the ISU Site Co-Director for NSF-funded Center for e-Design.  Dr. McKilligan teaches design studios and lecture courses on developing creativity and research skills.  Her current research focuses on identifying impacts of different factors on ideation of designers and engineers, developing instructional materials for design problem and solution spaces, and exploring foundations of innovation. She often conducts workshops on design thinking for a diverse range of groups including student and professional engineers and faculty members at different institutions.
  • Zoe Szajnfarber, Associate Professor (zszajnfa@gwu.edu)
    • Case Studies
    • https://www.seas.gwu.edu/zoe-szajnfarber
    • Professor Zoe Szajnfarber’s research group seeks to understand the fundamental dynamics of innovation in the monopsony market that characterizes government space and defense activities, as a basis for decision making. Current projects include mapping the innovation ecosystem at NASA, ESA and the DoD, modeling the  interactions between organizational and technical systems architecture over time, and valuing alternative technology investment strategies and their impact on individual preference structures.
  • Chiradeep Sen, Assistant Professor (csen@fit.edu)
    • Experimental Designer Studies
    • http://www.fit.edu/faculty/profiles/profile.php?tracks=csen
    • Dr. Sen is focused on the study of early stage design activities through both practice and experimentation.  He won the Best Dissertation Award from the ASME Computers and Information in Engineering Division in 2013 and joined the faculty at Florida Institute of Technology in 2014.  He is currently developing, with his students, computational tools to support function modeling, gesture recognition, and automated piping layout.
  • Gregory Cranmer, Assistant Professor (gcranme@clemson.edu)
    • Survey Design
    • https://www.clemson.edu/cbshs/faculty-staff/profiles/gcranme
    • Dr. Cranmer has recently joined the department, but he is #Allin. Professional Organizations: He is a member of the Southern States Communication Association, Eastern Communication Association (ECA), and National Communication Association, and is the current Organizational Communication Interest Group Chair for ECA\’s 2017 Conference in Boston, MA.
  • Marissa Shuffler, Assistant Professor (mshuffl@clemson.edu)
    • Observation and Coding
    • https://www.clemson.edu/cbshs/faculty-staff/profiles/MSHUFFL
    • Marissa L. Shuffler, PhD, has over ten years of experience conducting basic and applied research in the areas of team development, leadership, and organizational effectiveness. Dr. Shuffler is an Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Clemson University. Her areas of expertise include team and leader training and development, intercultural collaboration, multi-team systems, and decision-making/adaptation, with an emphasis on high risk and complex environments. Dr. Shuffler has served as scientific task lead on several major interdisciplinary research projects, including the design of a computer-based training tool for improving critical social thinking training for Soldiers, the empirical investigation of key leadership issues in virtual and distributed teams, and the design of training interventions aimed at improving multiteam system coordination and functioning. Additionally, Dr. Shuffler has conducted quantitative and qualitative research to assess training and development needs for military and civilian populations, including the design, implementation, and analysis of both field and laboratory experimental studies. Dr. Shuffler conducted this and similar research for government, military, and industry, including the U.S. Army Research Institute, the Department of Labor, the Center for Army Leadership, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and Greenville Health System. Her work to date includes over 45 publications and over 100 presentations.
  • Dave Neyens, Assistant Professor (dneyens@clemson.edu)
    • Statistics in Design Research
    • http://www.clemson.edu/cecas/departments/ie/people/faculty/neyens.html
    • Dr. David Neyens’ primary research interest focuses on human factors application in health care and transportation. Dr. Neyens and his students use sophisticated analytical models to quantify operators’ behavior and performance in complex systems and situations. He is particularly interested in understanding the effects of technology on operator’s behavior, performance, and overall system effectiveness.

Program History

The concept of the workshop has evolved from numerous conversations and discussions within the ASME design community and the Design Society North American Chapter (DS-NAC).  A small task group from the DS-NAC was charged with evaluating the need and defining the program.  This included Joshua D. Summers (Clemson University), Mark Fuge (University of Maryland), Susan Finger (Carnegie Mellon University), Matthew Campbell (Oregon State University), and Matt Parkinson (Penn State University).  A survey was initially deployed to a select group in Fall 2015 with limited responses and feedback.  In the spring of 2016, a design research methods course (ME 8730) taught at Clemson University was opened to include students from Georgia Tech who could participate in the Clemson course during the semester while getting course credit through a “special topics” course at Georgia Tech.  In this streamed discussion and practice oriented course, two “distance” students participated.  They participated fully with the design and execution of a small scale case study; the design, execution, and analysis of a controlled designer study; and an application of an established coding scheme for a protocol study.  In addition, students submitted reading reflections and developed “how to” manuals for the three basic types of research methods.  Feedback from the distance students and their advisors was extremely positive.  Based on this experience and demonstration that students from other universities would benefit from this type of structured instruction on research methods in design, a revised “user” survey was deployed to the full DS-NAC in the fall of 2016.  This was overseen by a new task force that included additions of Julie Linsey (Georgia Tech) and Katherine Fu (Georgia Tech) with Matthew Campbell (Oregon State University) asking to be removed.  This revised survey sparked much debate within the community on the meaning of “design research” and the possible interpretations.  A large set of possible topics (22) were presented to faculty and they were asked to select all topics “of interest to your students in a short summer course”.  The top three choices include three design research methods:  case study, protocol study, and designer study.  Over half of all respondents included these three in their selections.  The next two most popular topics include Systems Engineering and Problem Definition.

Contact Information

For more information, students and their advisors are encouraged to contact Dr. Joshua D. Summers directly at:  jsummer@clemson.edu or 864.ME.DX.LAB.