Title: Empirical research in engineering practice

Authors: Saeema Ahmed

Addresses: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Section of Engineering Design, Technical University of Denmark, Building 404, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark

Abstract: Increasingly engineering design research involves the use of empirical studies that are conducted within an industrial environment (Ahmed, 2001; Court, 1995; Hales, 1987). Research into the use of information by designers, or understanding how engineers build up experience are examples of research areas that often use methods such as interviews, observations and protocol analyses. These methods are traditionally associated with the social sciences, and usually with experiments set within a laboratory environment. The use of such methods in an industrial environment has created a new set of research issues. This paper describes empirical research methods employed in industry case studies focusing upon information, knowledge and experience in engineering design. The paper describes the methods, their suitability for the particular research aims, and the advantages and disadvantages of the methods, and describes two case studies in detail. The paper draws conclusions from the studies reviewed of the use of empirical research methods in industry.

Keywords: empirical research; engineering design; ethnography; experience; information management; knowledge management; observations; research methodology.

DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2007.016389

Journal of Design Research, 2007 Vol.6 No.3, pp.359 - 380

Published online: 23 Dec 2007 *

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