lim jia sheng,

.Design Research & Methodology


[1]: Module Briefing

We were firstly brought through the module structure & what we're expected to do for the rest of the semester.

Then, we proceeded with answering a few core questions of the module.

What is Research

  • The pursuit of knowledge.
  • The systematic & creative investigation + study of materials & sources, to establish facts & new conclusions.
  • The increase stock of knowledge — of humans, culture, & society — & use it devise new applications.
  • The self-directed work exploring issues of interest in all areas of study.
  • The communication between student & faculty member on the process & results of a research/scholarly/creative project.

Why We Should Do Research

  • To expand our understanding of our academic field.
  • To define our academic/career/personal interests.
  • To establish connections with faculty.
  • To gain academic experiences to help with our resumes (eg. presenting at research conferences, publishing, working with research teams)
  • To develop critical thinking skills, leadership, time management, & communication skills.
  • To explore research techniques.

How We Should Start Doing Research

  1. Identify a field of interest.
    • This can be one or more topics that piqued our curiosity. (eg. from our courses, current events, self reflection, various reading)
  2. Further research about the chosen topic
    • This will establish an area (research problem) where we're interested to conduct research about.
  3. Write a problem statement
  4. Formulate a research question
  5. Identify research objective(s)

[2]: Problem statement, Research question, Research objective, Hypothesis, Variables

Problem statement

  • A concise description of an issue to be addressed/improved upon.
  • Identifies the gap between the current (problem) state & desired (goal) state of a process/product.
  • Paves the way for the reader to understand the research problem.

Research question

  • An answerable inquiry into a specific concern/issue.
  • The initial step in a research project.
  • Establishes the research problem in the form of a statement.
  • The ground of the foundation of our research.

Steps to good research questions

  1. Specify concern/issue
  2. Decide on what we want to know about the specific concern or issue
  3. Turn what we want to know & the specific concern into a question.
  4. Ensure that the question is answerable.
  5. Check to make sure the question is not too broad or too narrow.

Research objective

  • What we expect to achieve by a project.
  • May be linked with a hypothesis or used as a statement of purpose in a study that does not have a hypothesis.
  • Even if the nature of the research has not been clear to the layperson from the hypotheses, s/he should be able to understand the research from the objectives.
  • Serves to guide the activities of research.


  • To describe what factors farmers take into account in making such.
    • The research will end the study by being able to specify factors which emerged in household decisions.
  • To develop a budget for reducing pollution by a particular enterprise.
    • The result will be the specification of a pollution reduction budget.
  • To describe the habitat of the giant panda in China.
    • The result will be creating a picture of the habitat of the giant panda in China.


  • A tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables.
  • A specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in a study.
  • Unless we are creating a study that is exploratory in nature, our hypothesis should always explain what we expect to happen during the course of your experiment or research.
  • Doesn't need to be correct.
  • When writing against a hypothesis, researchers may suggest other options that should be explored in future studies.


For a study designed to look at the relationship between sleep deprivation and test performance:

  • This study is designed to assess the hypothesis that sleep-deprived people will perform worse on a test than individuals who are not sleep deprived.


  • Something that can be changed or varied (eg. characteristic, values).
  • By systematically varying some variables and measuring the effects on other variables, researchers can determine if changes to one thing result in changes in something else.


  • Students who are sleep deprived will score significantly lower on a test.

[3]: Formulating Research Question and Connecting to Research Objective


Research lifecycle

  1. Identify data needs.
  2. Spell out research question.
  3. Formulate study objectives.
  4. Plan analysis.
  5. Prepare data collection instruments.
  6. Collect data.
  7. Analyse data.
  8. Draw conclusion.
  9. Formulate recommendations.
  10. Inform stakeholders.
  11. [Circular 1.]

Research questions

What is a research question?

Uncertainty about (/data needs of) something in the population that the investigator wants to resolve by making measurements in the study population.

Clear research questions

  • The most optimal research design should be chosen.
  • Should identify:
    • Who should be included.
    • What the outcomes should be.
    • When the outcomes need to be measured.

Refining ideas into research questions

It begins with general uncertainty about an issue (eg. sound design in low cost animation production), & narrows down to a concrete & researchable issue.

Translating uncertainty to research question

  • Frames problem in specific terms (Cultural Identity/Character for Animation).
  • Focuses on one issue.
  • Is written in everyday language.
  • Can use more than one verb (if needed).
  • Should link the question to the potential action that would be taken once the question is answered.
  • Is stated as a question!

What research questions set out to resolve

  • ✅ What the investigator or researcher wants to know.
  • ❌ What the investigator might do.
  • ❌ What the results of the study might ultimately contribute.

Research question sources

  • Published literature.
  • Scholar & practitioner research outcomes/conferences/podcasts/etc.
  • Supervisors/peers as guide/mentor.

Research question types

  1. Descriptive questions.
    • Involve observations to measure quantity.
    • No comparison groups/interventions.
  2. Analytical questions.
    • Involve comparisons/interventions to test a hypothesis.

Steps in conceiving a research question

  1. Review of state-of-art information.
  2. Raise a question.
  3. Decide worth investigating by peer-review.
  4. Define measurable exposures & outcomes.
  5. Sharpen the initial question.
  6. Refine the question by specifying details.

Good research questions

They should pass the "so what?" test:

  • Feasible
    • Adequate number of participants, technical expertise & resources.
  • Interesting
  • Novel
    • Confirms, refutes or extends previous findings.
    • Provides new information.
  • Ethical
    • Amenable to a study that ethics committee will approve.
  • Relevant
    • Advance creative media knowledge, improve practice, influence policy (broadcasting, information and cyber law).


  • Are specific versions of one research question.
    • Summarizes main elements of study:
      • Sample
      • Exposures
      • Outcomes
    • Establishes basis for test(s) of statistical significance.
  • Stated for analytical questions with comparison groups.
    • For research questions with terms:
      • greater or less than
      • causes
      • leads to
      • compared with
      • more likely than
      • associated with
      • related to
      • similar to
      • correlated with

Good hypotheses

  • Simple
    • One exposure.
    • One outcome.
  • Specific
    • No ambiguity about study participants/variables.
  • Stated in advance
    • Written at outset.
    • Focused on primary objective.

Research question to hypothesis

  • Frame in systematic creative terms.
  • Take the question in a few limited axis.
  • Write in systematic creative language.
  • Make use of no more than one verb for each.
  • Sort as primary and secondary.
  • Be clear about the type of question:
    • Descriptive questions (Measuring a quantity).
    • Analytical/experimental questions (Testing a hypothesis).

Objectives of descriptive vs analytical studies

Descriptive (Estimating a quantity)

Uses the verb "Estimate".

  • To estimate the increase of business account in Instagram.
  • To estimate the increase of the unimaginative game being developed.
  • To estimate the increase of AI usage in the graphic world.
Analytical (Testing a hypothesis)

Uses the verb "Determine".

  • To determine whether Instagram no longer serves the main purpose of creativity expression and exploration.
  • To determine the popularity of magical & unimaginative games rather than reality.
  • To determine whether AI can replace the creativity and conceptual thinking of the designer.

Asking the right question

If the research question itself is wrong, hard work can't save it; if the research question itself is right, an opportunity of good work is there.

  • Try to answer the question.
    • The answer may be of no use anyone.
    • There may be no answer.
  • Try to reframe it.

Additional notes


  • Alternative definitions for:
    • Research
    • Research questions
    • Research objectives
  • Which comes first — question or objective
  • Inductive approach to research problems
    • Observe a problem
    • Develop a theory
  • Deductive approach to research problems
    • Find an existing theory
    • Formulate hypothesis
    • Collect data
    • Analyse collected data against hypothesis
  • Examples of research problems

project[1]: Research Proposal


  • Confirm a field of interest & provide a 200-300 word rationale along with research evidence.
  • Establish an area of research.


For the first week, we were given the initial lecture briefing & thrown straight into the mud. This was my first attempt at completing the first two items in todo.

Figure 1.1.1, Snapshot of proposal, 12:56pm 2/9/2021


This week Dr. Hayati gave some feedback on what I wrote, mainly regarding how I should split up my rationale into both a rationale & problem statement.

Figure 1.2.1, Snapshot of proposal, 9:41am 9/9/2021


My research objectives didn't really refer back to any previous works of research, as well as my questions didn't corelate back to said objectives. After changing them however, we were instructed to turn them into slides to be presented/submitted.

Figure 1.3.1, Snapshot of proposal, 11:11am 9/9/2021

Figure 1.3.2, Snapshot of proposal deck, 9/9/2021


There was no class today, but we were granted access to a Google Classroom, where there laid more information on specifically what was expected in our proposal. Amongst them was a requirement for a title on the first slide of our proposal.

Figure 1.4.1, Final proposal deck, 16/9/2021


The first project of a new module is always confusing. This was no different, being especially daunting as it would set the path for everything else going forward. However, it was a pretty pleasant first step into research, enabling me to look at tonnes of fascinating literature before settling on the topic of "dark patterns". I chose this topic for a combination of general interest & surprisingly high research availability. I mean, is it not interesting how designers online can influence what people do by simply making some buttons look different?

My main observations were that there were surprising amounts of rigidity in questioning & setting objectives. I probably shouldn't be surprised as this in itself is a science, but to hear it in the flesh & being told was sort of jarring. Other than that, everything was pretty free & we could write whatever we wanted as long as it was on topic & substantiated. It was also here that reminded me how many articles online were paywalled. Pretty annoying but we all get by.

At last, this project instilled in me the basic mindset & "brain tools" required to be a researcher, gearing me up for everything else to come. Being critical & being objective were important for this project, but I feel like both of those skills are only going to be ever present in the rest of this module & the subsequent semesters. Am I looking forward to it? Perhaps.