When is a Problem a Design Science Problem?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study investigates the types of research problem for which Design Science Research (DSR) is suitable. This requires that DSR approaches are compared and contrasted with intervention-free empirical approaches, in order to determine the strengths and weakness of each approach. From this distinction, three guidelines are presented to allow Information Systems (IS) researchers to identify appropriate research problems for DSR, namely (1) when the prescriptive aspect of the research problem is less mature than the analytical, explanatory, or predictive aspect, (2) when an opportunity arises to engage with a class of design problems where effective existing solutions do not yet exist, (3) when important elements of a system may only become visible through the act of design. These three guidelines are discussed in the context of the IS design literature, and illustrated using examples of existing DSR studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSystems, Signs & Actions
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)9–25
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Design science
  • Research problems
  • Wicked problems
  • Methodology

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