The Potential Benefits of Using Design Research Methods in Social Science Research

Ella Frid Røn

Student thesis: Master thesis


Given the constant demands for social science research to provide non-academic results in a world of complex challenges, this master’s thesis zooms in on the potential benefits of adding design research methods to social science research. Design research methods have been chosen, given its recent hype within business studies, which may imply that it could prove valuable in other types of research as well. The main objective of this thesis is then to gain an understanding of which kinds of value design research methods might add to social science research, and whether design research methods can prove valuable in assisting to address the multidisciplinary societal challenges of today. The study engages in an analysis of the potential benefits of adding design research methods to social science research by introducing two separate analyses of the same case, based on each their kind of research methods. The case study of the South African township Soweto has been chosen given its relevance as an example of a major social challenge. Within the case study, I investigate the internal research question: “What is home to you, and how can home be improved?” The research question is answered through the two frameworks: the social change matrix and the social sustainability model. By exploring the answers to the research question provided by data collected using respectively social science research methods and design research methods, I am able to initiate a discussion of the differences in the data as well as the potential complementarity. Overall, I am therefore engaging in an exploratory case study to answer my two research questions. The study takes on an interpretivist research philosophy and uses inductive logic in order to generate new understandings, both in terms of the overall question and the internal question. The main findings for the overall research question are that design research methods generated value for social science research in three ways: First, design research methods enhanced creativity, sensitivity and thoroughness within the researcher throughout the entire research process, primarily given the design of the methods and the complexity of the data. As these factors also improve overall understanding, they have a positive effect on validity. Other benefits were that the design research methods enhanced exemplification and often complemented social science research findings with specific suggestions or examples. Finally, design research methods decreased language barriers due to the focus on visual language. Combined, these benefits suggest that design research methods may assist social science research in addressing societal challenges.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages95