Abstract

This paper argues that the primary advantage of the case study, its ability to reveal insight into ‘real-life’ contemporary phenomena (the here and now) set against critical incidents, happenings or events over time (cause and effect), could be undermined by a lack of methodological rigor and sound empiricism in design research. Often the ‘one off’ is reported as a ‘case’ without the critical insight or analytical discourse necessary to derive sound theory from practice. A systematic audit of design case studies in four of the leading design research journals has been undertaken along with a detailed analysis of the type, subject and field of research identified within the leading journal Design Studies since 1979. In summary, over 223 design case studies were identified, which represents approximately 8.5% of the total number of articles published (2651). The findings suggest there are significant variations in both subject coverage and theoretical issues covered. In addition, multiple descriptions and interpretations of the term ‘case study’ were evident and the majority of these studies offered a limited explanation or description of the case study method being employed. This raises issues of the generalisability of findings and indeed the process of generating theory to inform teaching and practice. In many instances, the old journalistic adage ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’ seems appropriate.

Keywords

case study research, methodology, design practice

COinS
 
Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

Design Case Studies: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

This paper argues that the primary advantage of the case study, its ability to reveal insight into ‘real-life’ contemporary phenomena (the here and now) set against critical incidents, happenings or events over time (cause and effect), could be undermined by a lack of methodological rigor and sound empiricism in design research. Often the ‘one off’ is reported as a ‘case’ without the critical insight or analytical discourse necessary to derive sound theory from practice. A systematic audit of design case studies in four of the leading design research journals has been undertaken along with a detailed analysis of the type, subject and field of research identified within the leading journal Design Studies since 1979. In summary, over 223 design case studies were identified, which represents approximately 8.5% of the total number of articles published (2651). The findings suggest there are significant variations in both subject coverage and theoretical issues covered. In addition, multiple descriptions and interpretations of the term ‘case study’ were evident and the majority of these studies offered a limited explanation or description of the case study method being employed. This raises issues of the generalisability of findings and indeed the process of generating theory to inform teaching and practice. In many instances, the old journalistic adage ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’ seems appropriate.

 

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