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Product Design History

How to Write the I-Search Paper for Product Design History

What Is an I-Search Paper?

An I-Search Paper helps you learn the nature of searching and discovery on a chosen topic. Your goal is to pay attention, track this exploration, and LEARN HOW YOU LEARN so that you can repeat the process in other courses.

The I-Search Paper should be the story of your search process, including chronological reflections on the phases of research in a narrative form. The I is for YOU. It's the story of YOUR search and what you learned.

Image: Franzi


Document Your Research Process

Keep track of the actual search terms and specific databases you used and how you modified your strategy as you went along. You will include those details in your paper. Analyze the results. How many hits did you get? Say how and why you modified your search strategy to get more or less. What did you learn about each database that you tried? What kind of information did you find. Why were the names of the journals or magazines articles were in.

In all your research, include actual facts and theories that you discover about your topic as well as idiosyncratic information such as what surprised you. You could say what you already knew about the topic before beginning the research and how what you knew about that topic may have changed during the research process.

If you have trouble finding relevant materials in the Library, ask a librarian. They have Master's Degrees in research, are more discerning than search engines. Plus, they are happy to assist!

Image: InkFactory

Visual  notetaking.


You are going to produce an I Search paper that focuses on an issue in product design that you think is important to investigate as a future designer or because it impacts the design field.

We are encouraging questions that address:

  • ethical issues
  • technology
  • mass production versus craft
  • consumption
  • science and design concerns
  • gender issues
  • globalization
  • materials
  • styles
  • universal design
  • lifestyles
  • advertising
  • design systems
  • environmental issues

This can be a critical question about a designer, product, or an issue.

This cannot be a report on a designer, product, or an issue. There are lots of books and articles that already cover that information.

What To Include

Your I Search paper should include:

  1. Why you are interested in this topic--be as specific as you can
  2. What you know about it before you begin researching
  3. What you found out from your research, especially different perspectives or positions on the issue
  4. You must address at least two different arguments or positions on your issue, and you must conclude your paper by taking one of those positions, explaining why you support it and how you would come to terms with the consequences of your position.
  5. Works Cited page with at least 3-5 quality sources
  6. Evaluative Annotations for 3 of those sources

Signature Assignment Template [Word]


Research Databases

View more research databases

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