CS 7960 | Reseach Paradigms for Human-Centered Computing

INSTRUCTOR: Miriah Meyer
TIME: T/Th 2:00-3:20pm

This course will look across different inquiry paradigms for human-centered computing research. Through readings and discussions of both theoretical and in-practice considerations, we will explore what it means to know through the lens of positivism, interpretivism, critical theory, and research through design.

Students will gain experience in reading research papers from fields outside of computer science, and in relating those papers to what we do as technologists. The course will also introduce the concept of reflective writing to enable self-awareness of learning and insights.

The learning objectives for the course are:


week date topic date topic
1 1/7 Course introduction 1/9 Paradigm overview
2 1/14 Paradigm exercise 1/16 Reflective writing
3 1/21 Positivism: historical view 1/23 Positivism: grounded theory
4 1/28 Interpretivism: trustworthiness 1/30 no class
5 2/4 Interpretivism: quality & reflexivity 2/6 Interpretivism: generalizability
6 2/11 Interpretivism: thick description 2/13 no class
7 2/18 Critical theory: situated knowledge 2/20 no class
8 2/25 Critical theory: data feminism 2/27 Critical theory: critical HCI
9 3/3 RtD: overivew 3/5 RtD: knowledge
10 3/10 no class (spring break) 3/12 no class (spring break)
11 3/17 no class 3/19 RtD: RtD in HCI
12 3/24 project pitches 3/26 1:1 meetings
13 3/31 writing workshop 4/2 writing workshop
14 4/7 1:1 meetings 4/9 1:1 meetings
15 4/14 writing workshop 4/16 writing workshop
16 4/21 class reflection


what we will do

In the first half of course we will read theoretical papers about each of the four paradigms, along with examples of the paradigm in practice. This is intended to give you a flavor for what each paradigm values and its historical context, but these will (necessarily) be shallow overviews. There is required reading for each class, along with supplemental reading if you want to dig deeper -- you should come to each class ready to discuss the readings. We will spend the last 15 minutes of each class doing reflexive writing to help you digest the discussions, as well as to leave a trace for you to reflect on your learning and thinking through the course.

In the second half of course you will develop a critical argument about some aspect of your field from one of the paradigms. The idea is to apply what you are learning to your own research endeavours. This will be a very open-ended writing project, but it will require finding examples of research reports in your own area and further reading in your choose paradigm. The end result will be a position or theoretical short paper that focuses on a quality argument and good citations. As a class we will rely on each other for input: everyone will pitch three project ideas to the class for feedback, along with 2-cycles of in-class workshopping of drafts. Ideally your project can be the start of a research paper, or be part of a project you are currently working on.


Grades in this course will be based on:

  • 20% Discussions
  • 20% Reflexive writing
  • 60% Final project

In-class discussion participation and reflexive writing will be bin-graded (0: missing, 1: below expectations, 2: meets expectations). Final project will count for the majority of your grade and will be roughly based on: clarity of argument, understanding of paradigm, grounding in relevant literature, interestingness of insights, and the quality of writing.


It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students' learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender identity, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, and culture. I also except students to treat others in the class, including the teaching staff, with the same level of respect. Your suggestions on how I can make the course more inclusive and welcoming are encouraged and appreciated. You can give me feedback in person during office hours, or through an anonymous form. 

I take incidents of discrimination, bias, and harassment seriously. I will file reports with the Office or Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX (OEO)  about such incidents. If you are unsure what differentiates free speech and professional behavior from discrimination, bias, and harassment I am happy to have an open, judgement-free, and confidential conversation with you, or refer you to the OEO.

U of U Office of Inclusivity 
Center for Ethnic Student Affairs  
LGBT Resource Center 
American Indian Resource Center 
Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX  
Center for Student Wellness

Students with disabilities The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability and Access. CDA will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations. Accommodations cannot be given without paperwork from this office.

Addressing sexual misconduct Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression) is a civil rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, color, religion, age, status as a person with a disability, veteran’s status or genetic information. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 135 Park Building, 801-581-8365, or the Office of the Dean of Students, 270 Union Building, 801-581-7066. For support and confidential consultation, contact the Center for Student Wellness, 426 SSB, 801-581-7776. To report to the police, contact the Department of Public Safety, 801-585-2677(COPS).

Student names & personal pronouns Class rosters are provided to me by the Registrar's Office with students' legal names as well as “Preferred first names” (if previously entered by you in the Student Profile section of your CIS account). Please advise me of any name or pronoun changes (and update CIS) so I can help create a learning environment in which you feel respected. If you need assistance getting your preferred name on your UID card, please visit the LGBT Resource Center Room 409 in the Olpin Union Building. The LGBT Resource Center hours are M-F 8am-5pm, and 8am-6pm on Tuesdays.

Student wellness Personal concerns such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, depression, cross-cultural differences, etc., can interfere with a student’s ability to succeed and thrive at the University of Utah. For helpful resources contact the Center for Student Wellness or call 801-581-7776.

Veterans center If you are a student veteran, the U of Utah has a Veterans Support Center located in Room 161 in the Olpin Union Building. Hours: M-F 8-5pm. Please visit their website for more information about what support they offer, a list of ongoing events and links to outside resources. Please also let me know if you need any additional support in this class for any reason.

Learners of English as an additional/second language If you are an English language learner, please be aware of several resources on campus that will support you with your language and writing development. These resources include: the Writing Center; the Writing Program; and the English Language Institute. Please let me know if there is any additional support you would like to discuss for this class.


The University of Utah values the safety of all campus community members. To report suspicious activity or to request a courtesy escort, call campus police at 801-585-COPS (801-585-2677). You will receive important emergency alerts and safety messages regarding campus safety via text message. For more information regarding safety and to view available training resources, including helpful videos, visit safeu.utah.edu.




Watch the following videos for some context before the reading the Guba paper.
- induction vs deduction
- quant vs qual research methods
- ontology, epsitemology, and paradigm

Two short articles for advice on reading research papers.
- Guide to Reading Academic Research Papers, K. Shannon.
- How to (seriously) read a scientific paper, E. Pain

Selectively read the following article, with a focus on Table 6.1. Read the parts of the text closely that you think will help you get a handle on the table.
- Guba, Egon G., and Yvonna S. Lincoln. "Competing paradigms in qualitative research." Handbook of qualitative research 2.163-194 (1994): 105.

Thoroughly read the following article for a perspective on what it means to do research when we make and deploy technology.
- Hevner, Alan R., et al. "Design science in information systems research." MIS quarterly (2004): 75-105.

further reading

Critique of Hevner04 paper.
- Sein, Maung, et al. "Action design research." Management Information Systems Quarterly 35.1 (2011): 37-56.

Resource of definitions for a variety of philosophical perspectives that inform different approaches to research in the social sciences.
- Compiled by Wendy Bastalich at the Uni of South Australia.


in class

Below are six articles to efficiently and selectively read. The papers are all qualitative research studies done in the field of climate change education. Categorize each article into one of these paradigms and justify your categorization:

  1. Positivist
  2. Post-positivist
  3. Activist
  4. Interpretivist

- Neimanis, Astrida, and Rachel Loewen Walker. "Weathering: Climate change and the “thick time” of transcorporeality." Hypatia 29.3 (2014): 558-575.
- Colston, Nicole, and Julie Thomas. "Climate change skeptics teach climate literacy? A critical discourse analysis of children's books." Journal of Science Communication 18.4 (2019): A02.
- Feierabend, Timo, and Ingo Eilks. "Innovating Science Teaching by Participatory Action Research--Reflections from an Interdisciplinary Project of Curriculum Innovation on Teaching about Climate Change." Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal 1.1 (2011): 93-112.
- Hestness, Emily, et al. "A study of teacher candidates’ experiences investigating global climate change within an elementary science methods course." Journal of Science Teacher Education 22.4 (2011): 351-369.
- Leck, Hayley. "The role of culture in climate adaptation:‘the nkanyamba caused that storm’." Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal 2.2-3 (2017): 296-315.
- Walsh, Elizabeth M., and Blakely K. Tsurusaki. "“Thank You for Being Republican”: Negotiating Science and Political Identities in Climate Change Learning." Journal of the Learning Sciences 27.1 (2018): 8-48.


This exercise is a modification of one developed by Elizabeth Patitsas at McGill University for her Research Methods course.



Read the following paper thoroughly.
- Ortlipp, Michelle. "Keeping and using reflective journals in the qualitative research process." The qualitative report 13.4 (2008): 695-705.

Guidance for writing a reflective journal:
- Starter questions for a journal entry
- Guidance for and examples of reflective writing

further reading

The seminal work on reflective practice.
- Schön, Donald A. The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Routledge, 1983.

An overview of the history of reflective practice and various models.
- Compiled by Wendy Bastalich at the Uni of South Australia.Sellars, Maura. "Chapter 1: Reflective Practice." Reflective practice for teachers. Sage, 2017.

Overview of critical reflection.
- Fook, Jan. "Reflective practice and critical reflection." Handbook for practice learning in social work and social care(2015): 440-454.

Views on reflective practice in visualization research.
- Meyer, Miriah, Jason Dykes. "Reflection on reflection in applied visualization research." IEEE computer graphics and applications 38.6 (2018): 9-16.



This book chapter provides a historical account of positivism and its many critiques. Read it thoroughly and look-up any terms that you don't know.
- Halfpenny, Peter. "Positivism in the twentieth century." (2001).

A discussion of the replication crisis in social psychology, and reframing of what replication means. Selectively read to understand the difference between exact replication and construct replication.
- Stroebe, Wolfgang, and Fritz Strack. "The alleged crisis and the illusion of exact replication." Perspectives on Psychological Science 9.1 (2014): 59-71.

further reading

NYTimes article that gives a good history of replication in social psychology and its implication on people and women in particular.
- "When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy", Susan Dominus, NYTimes Magazine, Oct 2017.

Argument for exact replication in social psychology.
- Simons, Daniel J. "The value of direct replication." Perspectives on Psychological Science 9.1 (2014): 76-80.

The BELIV workshop at IEEE VIS 2018 had a focus theme of replication. There are a number of interesting papers that address various views of replication for vis (and other HCI style) research studies.



Read all these selectively, but in particular looking for the theoretical parts that describe the values of grounded theory. Also look for descriptions of HOW to do in practice.

Overview of grounded theory from an HCI perspective.
- Muller, Michael. "Curiosity, creativity, and surprise as analytic tools: Grounded theory method." Ways of Knowing in HCI. Springer, New York, NY, 2014. 25-48.

A look at the positivist underpinnings of grounded theory.
- Age, Lars-Johan. "Grounded theory methodology: Positivism, hermeneutics, and pragmatism." The qualitative report 16.6 (2011): 1599-1615.

A pragmatic description of HCI grounded theory research.
- Furniss, Dominic, Ann Blandford, and Paul Curzon. "Confessions from a grounded theory PhD: experiences and lessons learnt." Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2011.

further reading

Detailed description about the method of thematic analysis.
- Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. "Thematic analysis." (2012).

Considered the pragmatic handbook of modern grounded theory.
- Charmaz, Kathy. Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage, 2006.



This is the seminal chapter on trustworthiness, with the founding ideas about criteria for rigor in non-positivist qualitative work. Read this thoroughly and carefully (maybe twice!).
- Lincoln, Yvonna S., and Egon G. Guba. "Establishing trustworthiness." Naturalistic inquiry 289.331 (1985): 289-327.

A more modern look back at trustworthiness and a call to think of it in terms of validity.
- Morse, Janice M. "Critical analysis of strategies for determining rigor in qualitative inquiry." Qualitative health research 25.9 (2015): 1212-1222.

further reading

Pragmatic description of trustworthiness criteria with suggested methods.
- Shenton, Andrew K. "Strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects." Education for information 22.2 (2004): 63-75.

Study that explores how to achieve trustworthiness criteria in practice.
- Forero, Roberto, et al. "Application of four-dimension criteria to assess rigour of qualitative research in emergency medicine." BMC health services research 18.1 (2018): 120.

Critique of Morse (and others) who call for reclaiming validity for qualitative research.
- Sparkes, Andrew C. "Myth 94: Qualitative health researchers will agree about validity." Qualitative health research 11.4 (2001): 538-552.

Discussion of saturation and theoretical sampling (ala grounded theory), with a descriptive example. Saturation is framed as an important characteristic of trustworthiness.
- Bowen, Glenn A. "Naturalistic inquiry and the saturation concept: a research note." Qualitative research 8.1 (2008): 137-152.



Modern take on (universal) criteria for quality in qualitative research. Read this thoroughly.
- Tracy, Sarah J. "Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research." Qualitative inquiry 16.10 (2010): 837-851.

Opportunities for reflexivity within qualitative studies. Read this somewhere between selectively and thoroughly.
- Finlay, Linda. "Negotiating the swamp: the opportunity and challenge of reflexivity in research practice." Qualitative research 2.2 (2002): 209-230.

As an aside, this article by Tracy is one of the most enjoyably-written technical articles I have ever read. Please take heed of her writing style and note what you think about this. I also find Finlay's writing to be unusually pleasant. HAPPY READING!

further reading

Another article by Finlay that looks at the theory of reflexivity and implications in practice.
- Finlay, Linda. "“Outing” the researcher: The provenance, process, and practice of reflexivity." Qualitative health research 12.4 (2002): 531-545.

A deep and theoretical paper about a reflexive model of science, and its position against positivist science.
- Burawoy, Michael. "The extended case method." Sociological theory 16.1 (1998): 4-33.

Criteria for rigor in design-oriented visualization research, heavily inspired by Tracy's quality criteria.
- Meyer, Miriah, and Jason Dykes. "Criteria for Rigor in Visualization Design Study." IEEE transactions on visualization and computer graphics 26.1 (2019): 87-97.

And the cliff-notes version of the vis criteria work.
- talk at IEEE VIS 2019.



Paper about what constitutes theory, from an information systems perspective. Read through page 618 thoroughly; selectively read the remaining.
- Gregor, Shirley. "The nature of theory in information systems." MIS quarterly (2006): 611-642.

Various types of generalization in interpretive research. Read thoroughly.
- Smith, Brett. "Generalizability in qualitative research: Misunderstandings, opportunities and recommendations for the sport and exercise sciences." Qualitative research in sport, exercise and health 10.1 (2018): 137-149.

further reading

Seminal writing that broadened the definition(s) of generalization for descriptive qualitative research.
- Firestone, William A. "Alternative arguments for generalizing from data as applied to qualitative research." Educational researcher 22.4 (1993): 16-23.

Updated view on Firestone's arguments.
- Polit, Denise F., and Cheryl Tatano Beck. "Generalization in quantitative and qualitative research: Myths and strategies." International journal of nursing studies 47.11 (2010): 1451-1458.

Overview of middle-range theory.
- Hedström, Peter, and Lars Udehn. "Analytical sociology and theories of the middle range." The Oxford handbook of analytical sociology (2009): 25-47.



Overview of thick description and its history. Read this thoroughly.
- Ponterotto, Joseph G. "Brief note on the origins, evolution, and meaning of the qualitative research concept thick description." The qualitative report 11.3 (2006): 538-549.

Rich, qualitative, HCI report. Read this closely and think about: 1) in what ways is this an example of thick description; 2) what things do you learn from this paper; and 3) what types of generalization are occurring.
- Tolmie, Peter, et al. "“This has to be the cats” Personal Data Legibility in Networked Sensing Systems." Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. 2016.



There is only one reading for today. It is dense and will require significant effort to get through. Please plan accordingly and leave yourself enough time.
- Haraway, Donna. "Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective." Feminist studies 14.3 (1988): 575-599.

further reading

Haraway's article is the conclusion of a discussion between her and Sandra Harding during the "science wars" of the 80's and 90's.

The first part of the discussion was a chapter from Haraway's book "Simians, Cyborgs, and Women".
- Haraway, Donna. "A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late 20th century." The international handbook of virtual learning environments. Springer, Dordrecht, 2006. 117-158.

A critique of Haraway's constructivist stance was given by Harding in her book that argues for feminist objectivity.
- Harding, Sandra G. The science question in feminism. Cornell University Press, 1986.

Which then led Haraway to her development of situated knowledge.



We will be discussing the new book Data Feminism by Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren Klein. This entire book is worth reading, and will help to contextualize some of what we read about in the Haraway article. You have a week to get through the book, which was written with practitioners in mind. I'd like you to thoroughly read Chapters 1-3 and 6. You can more selectively read through the remaining chapters, but please be somewhat aware of the principles covered in those chapters too.
- C. D'Ignazio, L. Klein. "Data Feminism", MIT Press, 2020. (out in March 2020).



Thoroughly read both of the papers below.

Overview of what a feminist approach to critique AND design can be for HCI.
- Bardzell, Shaowen. "Feminist HCI: taking stock and outlining an agenda for design." Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems. 2010.

Example of a situated approach to HCI research.
- Dew, Kristin N., and Daniela K. Rosner. "Designing with Waste: A Situated Inquiry into the Material Excess of Making." Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference. 2019.



Start with this (short) view of design research -- designerly way of knowing. If you'd like to read a more expansive piece with more historical context see the Cross article I've put in further reading.
- Cross, Nigel. "Design research: A disciplined conversation." Design issues 15.2 (1999): 5-10.

This is a textbook chapter with a more recent view of RtD, although with a somewhat limited scope. Please read thoroughly 43.1, and 43.3.18 - 43.3.30. You should skim through 43.2 to get a sense of what RtD research projects are like. We will discuss knowledge and artifacts in the next class.
- Stappers, P., Giaccardi, E. (2017). Research through Design. Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd ed., chp. 43.

further reading

- Cross, Nigel. "From a design science to a design discipline: Understanding designerly ways of knowing and thinking." Design research now. Birkhäuser Basel, 2007. 41-54.

Christopher Fraylings ruminations on RtD and its history.
- Provocations from RtD 2015.



Thoroughly read the following two papers.
- Bowers, John. "The logic of annotated portfolios: communicating the value of'research through design'." Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference. 2012.
- Höök, Kristina, and Jonas Löwgren. "Strong concepts: Intermediate-level knowledge in interaction design research." ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)19.3 (2012): 1-18.

further reading

- Löwgren, Jonas. "Annotated portfolios and other forms of intermediate-level knowledge." interactions 20.1 (2013): 30-34.

For a textbook overview of artifacts and knowledge, see sections 43.3.1 - 43.3.17.
- Stappers, P., Giaccardi, E. (2017). Research through Design. Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd ed., chp. 43.



Read the following two papers thoroughly.

This is the seminal paper that lays out an HCI perspective on RtD.
- Zimmerman, John, Jodi Forlizzi, and Shelley Evenson. "Research through design as a method for interaction design research in HCI." Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. 2007.

An example project grounded in RtD values.
- Altarriba Bertran, Ferran, et al. "Chasing Play Potentials: Towards an Increasingly Situated and Emergent Approach to Everyday Play Design." Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference. 2019.

further reading

Overview chapter about RtD from an HCI perspective. Somewhat different historical context from the other textbook chapter.
- Zimmerman, John, and Jodi Forlizzi. "Research through design in HCI." Ways of Knowing in HCI. Springer, New York, NY, 2014. 167-189.

The original writing on wicked problems.
- Rittel, Horst WJ, and Melvin M. Webber. "Dilemmas in a general theory of planning." Policy sciences 4.2 (1973): 155-169.

And follow-up work with a characterization of wicked problems.
- Buchanan, Richard. "Wicked problems in design thinking." Design issues 8.2 (1992): 5-21.