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I am currently working on my master's thesis. My primary task is to perform qualitative research on the development of a purpose-built software application.

I realise that I am now doing things in a rather backwards fashion, as I have already decided how I will do my research -- now I am trying to find an established research design to back it up.

My research approach is as follows:

I will first do a literature review of the current research in the field and develop a proof-of-concept mockup based on this and my own initial ideas. I will then conduct interviews (5 or so) with professionals from the field, and improve the mockup. Then I will arrange an iterative series (well, only two actually) of workshops with acutal users to determine their impression of the current design and content. The plan is to improve the mockup after each workshop. The final result will be a conceptual design of the software application and perhaps a suggestive software requirements specfication.

I have looked into different research strategies, such as "grounded theory" and "design science", but they both seem to be too time consuming. My time limit is 20 weeks in total.

Are there any developed research strategies that would fit my methodology?

  • 20 weeks for initial mockup building and three iterations of setting up interviews and workshops, getting feedback, analizing it and redoing the mockup, and the summarizing results, sounds awfully short. – vonbrand Feb 4 '16 at 17:03
  • Welcome to Academia SE. I am by no far expert on this matter, but your question seems to be only borderline on-topic here, as it is about the content of research (software development) and not about researching itself. I’ll leave that decision to others, but I suggest to consider taking a look at Software Engineering, Project Management or even User Experience as to whether your question may fit and receive better answers there. – Wrzlprmft Feb 4 '16 at 20:00
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In this instance, I respectfully disagree with @Wrzlprmft's comment. The core of this question is clearly focused on the research design / methodology and, thus, fits the scope of Academia.SE very well. Software development in this case simply represents the context of the applied research.

In regard to the essence of the question, I can offer the following insights and recommendations.

  • In my opinion, grounded theory (GT) is not a good fit for your study, as GT is typically used for designing general theories, rather than applied ones.

  • Design science seems like a pretty good fit, so you might read up and consider strategies for compressing research, performed, using this approach, to fit your time frame.

  • You might also consider other qualitative research designs and approaches, such as content analysis, narrative analysis and others (see more details, for example, at Qualitative Research Guidelines Project).

  • I would especially recommend you to pay attention to action research, as this research approach seems to fit quite well with your planned study. For more details on action research and other qualitative approaches, as well as likely the most popular qualitative research software ATLAS.ti, see this page.

Finally, I would urge you to pay attention to your terminology, as it might be very confusing not only to potential readers, but to the authors themselves. For example, your phrase "theoretical design of the software application" sounds... quite strange and reduces the clarity of your work and, thus, potentially, can hurt readers' impressions from it. I think that "conceptual design of a software application" sounds and reads much clearer. Hope this helps. Good luck with your thesis!

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