A social representations analysis of design science research

Rennie Naidoo, Alta Van der Merwe, Aurona Gerber, Alan R. Hevner


Design science research (DSR) is a relatively unfamiliar research paradigm within the computing field in South Africa. In light of recent interest in this paradigm, this study sought to explore DSR perspectives among local computing researchers. Key theoretical concepts from social representations theory (SRT) such as anchoring and objectification were used to explore how researchers construct their understanding of DSR. A visual approach was used to administer drawing and association tasks to two focus groups; each focus group comprised around 25 participants ranging from doctoral students to experienced researchers. The focus group discussions invoked interesting complementary and distinctive associations about the process and content of DSR – anchored in dominant and conventional research practices. The results also illustrated several ways in which DSR is objectified by the researchers in drawings and metaphorical constructions. We conclude that SRT is useful for exploring beliefs about novel and relatively unfamiliar research practices. This study contributes to an enhanced understanding of how computing researchers go about making sense and assigning meaning to changing research practices. The findings are developed into recommendations for introducing changes to research practices. These recommendations can be used to direct efforts to more appropriately accommodate changing research practices within the computing community to broaden knowledge generation.


Design Science Research, Anchoring, Objectification, Social representation theory, Visual methods

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18489/sacj.v56i1.274

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