Dealing with Complexity in Design Science Research: A Methodology Using Design Echelons

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Publication History

Received: February 8, 2020
April 29, 2021; March 28, 2022; December 19, 2022; May 3, 2023; July 14, 2023
Accepted: July 25, 2023
Published Online in Issue: June 1, 2024

This work is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

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Design science research (DSR) aims to generate knowledge about innovative solutions to real-world problems. Consequently, DSR needs to deal with the complexity related to problem and solution spaces involving sociotechnical phenomena that people perceive differently and are subject to constant change. This complexity poses challenges to sequential, process-based approaches—specifically, the existing DSR methodology. We designed a DSR methodology that extends existing approaches by adding a complementary organizing logic to address complexity. Based on the theory of hierarchical, multilevel systems, we suggest organizing DSR based on the concept of “echelons”—meaning decomposing DSR projects into smaller logically coherent self-contained parts—and suggest a set of five design echelons that imply a hierarchical organizing logic for DSR projects. The echeloned DSR (eDSR) methodology was developed in five iterations, involving seven design and evaluation episodes.

Additional Details
Author Tuure Tuunanen, Robert Winter, and Jan vom Brocke
Year 2024
Volume 48
Issue 2
Keywords Design science research, methodology, research project complexity, design knowledge development, organizing logic, design echelon, echelon-specific validation
Page Numbers 427-458
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