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Quick info. I'm a 4th year student (i.e. I'll be doing my masters when I complete my 4th year). Some of the work I'm doing now will however influence my masters.

One of my assignment questions in my research module is to come up with a few research strategies that would suit my research project. Whilst I cannot say exactly what my project is, it will in general be a new built system that will make decisions based on what rankings were given by people. (somthing similar to clicking the 'like' button on facebook or giving a review star rating for books as on Amazon.com).

I'm also using the following book (Researching information systems and computing by Briony J Oates) as a guide. I've identified the 'Design and Creation' research strategy as what would be the most fitting research strategy for my project seeing as I would be creating a new system. One of the questions in the evaluuation guide for the 'Design and Creation' research strategy is:

What makes this piece of work research and not 'normal' design and development work?

How would one go about answering such a question? What criteria would one have to look at to say that such a research project is an actual research project and just not your normal run of the mill application?

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    “ I cannot say exactly what my project is” / “make decisions based on what rankings were given by people” — Gosh! Are you working on Stack Exchange AI? It is true that the algorithm powering the supposedly human moderators could be improved… ;-) – F'x Oct 17 '12 at 8:56
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    According to the statistics box on the right, this is the 1000th question on Academia. Congrats! – F'x Oct 17 '12 at 11:35
  • Lol, No I'm simply an honours student with a wild imagination. But from your comment I just realised that there may be numerous uses for my project ;) 1000th question!! :D :D :D – Eminem Oct 17 '12 at 11:58
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I should've read chapter 8, design and creation properly. The answer is in the textbook (Oates, B., Researching information systems and computing, 2009).

According to the author, the major differences are that in the typical software industry is that the less that is learnt or the less that needs to be discovered the more successful the project is deemed to be. If all is going according to plan then using existing knowledge, avoiding backtracking and changing of design or avoiding having to redo analysis would be seen as a part success. Having to change your design, backtracking and redoing analysis are perceived as a negative risk which needs to be mitigated. These risks could overrun the project constraints such as time, budget etc. Therefore industrial practitioners often leave out risky or uncertain parts of a project.

A researcher on the other hand focuses on these risky and uncertain items because tackling these risks and uncertainties successfully would lead to new knowledge being created. Hence you can claim to be doing research rather than 'normal' design and creation through the risk taking of your software product or process. You can further claim justification for your design by using theoretical underpinnings such as mathematical formulas and or formal methods from the field. You should also be able to say how the knowledge aquired from your design can be applied generally to other situations.

  • +1 for answering a FAQ in my opinion. I have had a few wanna be grad students give up their idea for "research" for just this reason - it was just 'normal' design. – Fuhrmanator Oct 18 '12 at 15:48

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