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Journal Article

A Model for Improving Knowledge Generation in Design Science Research through Reflective Practice  pp192-211

J.T. Janse van Rensburg, Roelien Goede

© Dec 2019 Volume 17 Issue 4, Editor: Ann Brown, pp192 - 243

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Epistemology refers to the philosophy of knowledge and aims to address central questions of how we create new knowledge. All research paradigms can be distinguished in terms of epistemological assumptions, that is, assumptions of how knowledge is produced in the respective paradigms. Design science research (DSR) is a research paradigm often used in technical disciplines for the creation of artefacts. DSR has roots in pragmatism, where beliefs and theories are evaluated based on the success of its practical application. New knowledge is produced in DSR when original artefacts are created to solve a problem. The epistemological assumption of DSR can then shortly be defined as ‘knowledge through making’. At its core, DSR is goal‑orientated and its practical approaches are focused on delivering the product according to straight‑forward processes ‑ without being affected by human factors. This process of acquiring new knowledge is efficient but not necessarily effective in terms of capturing all aspects of the experience of the practitioner. Frameworks exist for the creation of artefacts in DSR, but the process of knowledge generation is not explicit. The aim of the paper is to guide explicit knowledge generation in DSR. The research question is “How can we make the process of obtaining knowledge in DSR more explicit?” DSR Frameworks are iterative in nature and focus on the creation and evaluation of artefacts. There is an implicit assumption that reflection takes place in these iterations. Schön, author of The Reflective Practitioner, writes that new knowledge is produced through reflection during and after an event has occurred. He also states that you can only have a complete understanding of a problem through the dual process of reflection‑in‑action and reflection‑on‑action. We argue that this also holds true for artefact design and development in DSR. A reflective DSR practitioner can explicitly indicate how knowledge is produced in the design science research cycle. The effective use of reflective practice changes each individual phase of a DSR framework from goal‑orientated to problem‑orientated. Epistemologically, knowledge is then produced through ‘learning by doing’, which gives DSR a worldview that supports reflective practice. The paper promotes the incorporation of reflective practice in DSR and provides a demonstration thereof in an example on the preparation of IT students for their chosen career.


Keywords: Design science research, reflective practice, epistemology, knowledge generation


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Journal Issue

Volume 17 Issue 4 / Dec 2019  pp192‑243

Editor: Ann Brown

View Contents Download PDF (free)

Keywords: Design science research, reflective practice, epistemology, knowledge generation, Activity Theory, contradictions, analysis of qualitative data, technology-mediated organisational change, Accounting Information Systems, Information Security Management, participative action research, case study, Participatory Action Research (PAR), business simulation, education, qualitative research, quantitative research, methodology


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