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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jennifer A. Turns
HCDE 502
Seattle Campus

Empirical Traditions in Human Centered Design and Engineering

Introduction to empirical traditions that inform research and practice in field of human centered design and engineering. Topics include epistemological assumptions underlying empirical research, empirical methods, and survey of results of empirical research on effects of text and visual media on comprehension, recall, and performance. Prerequisite: graduate standing or permission of instructor. Offered: Sp.

Class description

Empirical research increasingly forms a cornerstone of our field. As a result, those in the field need a solid understanding of the nature of empirical research. This is true whether one aims to function as a designer using the research to guide design decisions or as a researcher trying to expand the body of relevant research. HCDE502 addresses this situation. In this course, we will explore the empirical traditions that inform research and practice in our field. Topics include epistemological assumptions underlying empirical research, empirical research methods, examples of empirical research, and ethical issues underlying empirical research.

We will start with a foundations period in which we will discuss of the notion of empiricism and empirical research, engage in a benchmarking exercise, explore foundational ideas about finding truth and/or creating arguments from observational data, discuss ethical issues, and learn about the role of empirical research in important journals in our field (project 1). Armed with a toolkit of concepts and experiences, we will proceed to read and discuss examples of various types of empirical research. This phase will be complemented by a project (project 2) in which you will select a research method that interests you and explore the use of that research method in our field. The final phase of the class, the synthesis phase, will consist of looking back (to take stock of what we have learned through the term) and looking ahead (you will explain how the lessons gained in this course contribute to you professional trajectory). In addition, the core theme of the first and second phase of the course—gaining skills and confidence in critically evaluating empirical studies—will be brought to the fore in project 3 in which you will prepare a professional evaluation of an empirical research article of your choosing.

Student learning goals

1. Function as capable and critical consumers of empirical research.

2. Discuss trends in the use of empirical research in our field and in your areas of interest

3. Discuss critical issues and debates related to doing and using empirical research

4. Critically discuss a range of ethical considerations associated with empirical research

5. Explain how the skills acquired in this course will help you with your professional goals

General method of instruction

Readings, Class Discussion, Projects

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

In this class, students will be expected to complete reading assignments, participate in class discussions, and complete a series of written assignments.

Grading in this class will be based on the completion of four projects and three discussion papers. Additional details for each project will be provided in a separate project briefs. In addition, there will be a number of required readings for this course (listed at the end of this syllabus) and short "discussion idea" postings to the course blog in order to stimulate discussion about these readings.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jennifer A. Turns
Date: 05/29/2012