June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Educational Research and Methods
24.639.1 - 24.639.9
ERM - RESEARCH PAPER Gathering and synthesizing information during the development of user requirements and engineering specificationsGathering and synthesizing information are crucial aspects of design, especially in thedevelopment of user requirements and translation to engineering specifications. The processes ofinformation and data gathering and synthesis are unique to technical engineering problemsolving. Engineering coursework tends to emphasize summary writing, in which students mustdevelop an idea based on information they are provided. In design work, however, students mustengage in a process similar to explanatory writing, in which decisions are justified with data orinformation gathered and synthesized by the students themselves. This advanced informationprocessing task is often further complicated by conflicting information, questionable datasources, and advanced technical topics. Studies of student designers have shown that more timespent gathering information has been positively correlated with final design quality, and thatexperts spend more time gathering information than novices. While previous studies havefocused on the collection of information during design, few studies have looked at how studentssynthesize and then use the information collected.A pilot study was conducted with six design teams comprising twenty-seven senior mechanicaland biomedical engineering students in order to gain a better understanding of how engineeringstudents collect, synthesize, and use information during the development of user requirements fortheir capstone design project. Student design teams were asked to write-up user requirementdevelopment plans that represented what information sources they would consult in order todefine their user requirements. These plans were then compared to the students’ actual userrequirements presented during the first and second design reviews. Semi-structured interviewswere then conducted with four design teams in order to better understand the differences betweenstudents’ plans and execution. The user requirement plans, both design reviews, and interviewtranscriptions were combined for analysis. A comparative analysis showed that studentsoriginally planned to gather information from many sources and synthesize this information todevelop user requirements however, in practice, they focused on a much smaller number ofinformation sources compared with the information sources identified during the planning stage.Furthermore, students made little indication that they combined multiple sources to justify theiruser requirements focusing instead on a single information source without justifying thispreference. These results suggest that while students realize, in theory, the value of gathering andsynthesizing diverse information, they reverted to a more simplistic one-to-one matching of userrequirements and information sources.
Mohedas, I., & Daly, S. R., & Sienko, K. H. (2014, June), Gathering and Synthesizing Information During the Development of User Requirements and Engineering Specifications Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20530
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