Developing generic actionable knowledge for the social domain: Design science for use in the swamp of practice

Joan Ernst van Aken


This article is intended as an introduction to Design Science Research (DSR) and its application in the social domain.  DSR is a research strategy driven by field problems and aimed at the development of generic actionable knowledge. Generic actionable knowledge is knowledge about the kind of actions that can be taken to address a certain type of field problem. Action design in the social domain has to allow for uncertainty, as the relation between action and outcome is less determined here than in the material world and is typically strongly influenced by context. For settings in which the action, the system of interest and the desired outcome are non-complex, and for large N questions, conventional methods, including quantitative ones, can be used. For complex settings and for questions with an interest in the particular a (qualitative) learning strategy can be more appropriate.

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