This paper describes empirical research that was carried out in collaboration with the aerospace group of a major power systems company to characterise in detail the information requests of engineering designers. The research started by reviewing current classifications of information requests as well as the problem solving and reasoning processes. The data collection consisted of integrating ethnographical participation with a diary study and observations with shadowing. Two large data sets were gathered from the diary study and the observations. The literature review and the studies conducted in this project led to the development of six categories to classify information requests, namely objective, subject, response process, response type, direction of reasoning and behaviour type. The development of the categories was data driven. Each of the first four categories was designed to classify one characteristic of information requests. The final two categories were designed to be used together and to classify one additional characteristic of information requests. The paper discusses in detail the categories. The results of the quantitative analysis of the two data sets using the six categories are also presented. At a later stage of the research, a coding scheme to classify multiple characteristics of information requests was extracted from the six categories. The paper discusses the scheme with respect to current classifications. The implications of the research results to improve the support that can be provided to designers are also discussed and presented.

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