Knowledge Visualization for Research Design: The Case of the Idea Puzzle Software at the University of Auckland

Knowledge Visualization for Research Design: The Case of the Idea Puzzle Software at the University of Auckland

Ricardo Morais (Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal) and Ian Brailsford (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7065-3.ch003
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This chapter presents a case of information and communication technology use in doctoral research processes. In particular, it presents the use of the Idea Puzzle software as a knowledge visualization tool for research design at the University of Auckland. The chapter begins with a review of previous contributions on knowledge visualization and research design. It then presents the Idea Puzzle software and its application at the University of Auckland. In addition, the chapter discusses the results of a large-scale survey conducted on the Idea Puzzle software in 71 higher education institutions as well as its first usability testing at the University of Auckland. The chapter concludes that the Idea Puzzle software stimulates visual integrative thinking for coherent research design in the light of Philosophy of Science.
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In recent years, there has been an unprecedented interest in the visualisation of academic research processes (Meyer, Höllerer, Jancsary, & Leeuwen, 2013). Previous contributions have focused, among others, on the practical visualisation of scientific knowledge (Worren, Moore, & Elliott, 2002), on the complementarity between visual formats (Eppler, 2006), on the disciplinary background of visualisation research (Eppler & Burkhard, 2007), on the visualisation of conceptual frameworks (Leshem & Trafford, 2007), and on the pitfalls of visualisation (Bresciani & Eppler, 2015). Taken together, such contributions have shed light on the origins, differences, and implications of visual representations in academia.

However, previous research on visualisation has neglected the overall design of a research project as a crucial stage of scientific practice. In the words of Meyer et al. (2013), “we should aim at actively making use of the potential of visual representations to enable better research processes and results. This starts at the stage of designing projects” (p. 536). Such a research gap is relevant because the overall design of a research project is more complex than that of its constituent parts, requiring holistic and immediate visualisation as a complement to linear and sequential verbalisation (Meyer et al., 2013).

The purpose of this chapter is therefore to present a visual decision-making tool – the Idea Puzzle software – that supports the overall design of a research project. In the words of Parente and Ferro (2016), it is “a support tool to assist PhD students and researchers in the process of designing research projects through a focus on three central dimensions of research that are collectively represented by a triangle” (p. 643). Parente and Ferro (2016) further emphasise the visual dimension of the Idea Puzzle software as follows:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Visual Representation: A mode of communication based on holistic and immediate visuals rather than linear and sequential verbalization.

Conceptual Framework: An analytical tool that depicts a certain phenomenon parsimoniously.

Research Design: A draft that integrates theory, method, data, rhetoric, and authorship for subsequent implementation of academic research.

Jigsaw Puzzle: A human-made object with the educational purpose of assembling jigsaw pieces with different shapes to convey an overall picture.

Integrative Thinking: A synthesis of lower-level elements that integrates and reformulates them into a coherent new whole.

Philosophy of Science: An academic discipline that studies the logic of scientific discovery and justification for the acquisition of original knowledge.

Usability Testing: A face-to-face session in which interviewers register the reactions of interviewees as they interact with a certain website or software.

Research Software: A computer-based application that converts inputs into outputs to support the user in one or more research tasks.

Knowledge Visualization: A visual representation that allows the transfer and creation of knowledge between two or more persons.

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