Empirical research in systems engineering: Challenges and opportunities of a new frontier

Ricardo Valerdi, Heidi L. Davidz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This paper aims to advance the pedagogy of systems engineering by identifying opportunities and challenges in empirical research in the field. After an introduction to how empirical research could be further utilized in systems engineering, this paper discusses challenges faced when conducting empirical research in the field, threats to validity associated with systems engineering data collection, and considerations for empirical mixed-methods research. Two recently completed systems engineering empirical studies are used to illustrate specific examples. Finally, suggestions are given on how a professional society might provide additional support for researchers completing empirical research in systems engineering. The overarching goal of this paper is to describe how the increased use of empirical methods can be used to enrich the quality of research results which will in turn enhance the position of systems engineering as a widely recognized academic field. It is proposed that utilizing well-grounded, valid theory will improve understanding of systems engineering phenomena and advance the maturity of the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-181
Number of pages13
JournalSystems Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009


  • Empirical research methods
  • Mixed methods
  • Scientific method
  • Seanet
  • Social science
  • Threats to validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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