An Engineering Reasoning-Based Course on Research Methodologies for Systems Engineers
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This paper presents engineering reasoning as the basis of a new research framework for system design. While scientists necessarily focus on examining natural phenomena to explain our surroundings, engineers center their efforts on applying scientific knowledge, life experience, and their own creativity to build useful things. However, engineers are seldom exposed to the range of research methods that could enable them to formulate better engineering solutions. Quantitative means to generate data, develop statistical evidence, and support design decisions dominate engineering research. Departures from traditional methods of inquiry are rare and not readily apparent in engineering courses. Inevitably, exploratory approaches in engineering hinge on numerical techniques, which align neatly with the educational journey that most engineers experience. The conventional approach incrementally converges on a solution. However, this way of driving towards a design can often overlook the value of divergent thinking and alternative logic. Engineering reasoning consists of abductive thought, as well as deductive and inductive rationale, each pointing to different research approaches. Retroduction iteratively employs these classes of reasoning throughout the design process. The linkages between engineering reasoning and methods of inquiry are foundational for developing a robust course on research methods for systems engineers. The engineering design process motivates lines of thinking to specify the design components of the engineering solution. Each class of reasoning has a distinct purpose for defining the grounds (design variables), warrants (design knowledge), and conclusions (design specifications) that are involved in the engineering problem. The method of inquiry is bound by the design component that has been given, and that which must be derived. Deductive reasoning seeks design specifications when the design variables and knowledge are known. When the design variables and specifications are given, then inductive thinking is applied to develop knowledge about the engineering problem. Lastly, abductive logic unearths design variables that are important to the design problem. To obtain the missing information, systems engineers must adjust their thinking and apply appropriate research techniques. This new research framework offers a mixed method approach to improve solutions development.
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Hernandez, Alejandro S.; Whitcomb, Clifford (The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 2018-10);Set-based design must define a specific set of principles to shape a formal design methodology. To structure this design approach, we use set-based thinking and engineering reasoning to guide the techniques that engineers ...
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