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What is Design-based Research?



While there is an ongoing debate about what constitutes design-based research (Van den Akker & et al., in press), the definition of design-based research proposed by Wang and Hannafin (2005) captures its critical characteristics:

a systematic but flexible methodology aimed to improve educational practices through iterative analysis, design, development, and implementation, based on collaboration among researchers and practitioners in real-world settings, and leading to contextually-sensitive design principles and theories (p. 6)

Main characteristics of design-based research

Drawing on the literature, Wang and Hannafin (2005) proposed five basic characteristics of design-based research: ¡°Pragmatic, Grounded, Interactive, iterative and flexible, Integrative, and Contextual¡± (p. 7).

First, design-based research is pragmatic because its goals are solving current real-world problems by designing and enacting interventions as well as extending theories and refining design principles (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003; Van den Akker & et al., in press).

Second, design based research is grounded in both theory and the real-world context (Wang & Hannafin, 2005).

Third, in terms of research process, design-based research is interactive, iterative and flexible.

Fourth, design-based research is integrative because researchers need to integrate a variety of research methods and approaches from both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms, depending on the needs of the research.

Fifth, design research is contextualized because research results are ¡°connected with both the design process through which results are generated and the setting where the research is conducted¡± (Wang & Hannafin, 2005, p. 11).


As explained above, design - based research produces both theories and practical educational interventions as its outcomes. Edelson (2002) proposed three kinds of theories that can be generated from the design:

  • Domain Theories
  • Design Framework
  • Design Methodologies


@ Peer Group 2006