Analysis of Integrated Engineering and Social Science Approaches for Projects in Developing Communities


Design for Developing Countries, Appropriate Technology, Human-Centered Design, Participatory Design, Social Science Research Methods


Current design methods such as appropriate technology, human-centered design, and participatory design are intended to generate development projects that resonate with users in communities in developing countries. These approaches are extremely useful, but often lack adequate documentation about how to collect data on and incorporate users feedback into the project’s design. To address this gap, we introduced social science research methods into a service-learning course for undergraduate engineering students, which culminated in a trip to the communities for whom they were designing, to help students incorporate user feedback into the design of their projects. This paper documents our efforts. One of the main findings from a survey administered to students enrolled in the service-learning course indicate that students exhibited greater awareness of the users’ needs, rather than the technical specifications of their projects, after their on-site visit and interviews with users in the community. We conclude by identifying ways students were successful and plans for improving the integration of instruction about social science research methods into the engineering course.

Original Publication Citation

Parry Garff,* Eric Dahlin, Carol Ward, and Randy Lewis. 2013. “Analysis of Integrated Engineering and Social Science Approaches for Projects in Developing Communities.” International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering Special Edition:137-150.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



International Journal of Service Industry Management




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor