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Debriefing

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Some notes - to be edited ...

Debriefing:  Please remember that debriefing is an essential part of most simulation/games, especially those that involve some form of learning, and that you should give sufficient discussion to this.  For S&G, it is essential to include ample discussion on debriefing.

Most simulation/gaming applications (particularly those related to the broad notion of learning) usually require some form of critical appraisal or debriefing.   If there is one thing that gamers have always spoken of as being vital, it is the pre-eminent role of debriefing -- of reflecting on experience.  Articles that deal with issues, events or topics in which debriefing plays or should play a role must discuss this aspect fully.

This means having sections in your article that fully explain debriefing structures and processes and that highlight and explain how the debriefing may have contributed to the learning and/or the research results.  It can mean having an Appendix that contains the debriefing instruments and/or an explanation of the procedures used.

At the very least, articles must explain why debriefing does not figure prominently in the results, discussions or descriptions in the article.   To put it a different way, an absence of discussion on debriefing where such discussion would normally be expected needs some form of explanation for such absence.   A simple mention that you have debriefed, but with no detail, is unacceptable.  You must account fully for the debriefing, and put debriefing protocols, materials, etc in an appendix (supporting information).

Even if an article is excellent in other respects, it can be disqualified because it does not discuss debriefing sufficiently and adequately.  Do not try to skirt this issue -- merely paying lip service to this requirement is perhaps even worse than not mentioning it at all.

You should also cite the relevant literature on this.

Even simulation/games use for research purposes can benefit from structured debriefing.

For S&G, it is essential to include ample discussion on debriefing.  For example,

  • how debriefing was structured and carried out (protocols, methods, materials, etc),

  • copies of debriefing materials that you used, diagrams, photos,  etc.,

  • how debriefing contributed to learning,

  • how debriefing was built into the research,

  • how you collected data on debriefing as well as on the game, for example, did participants respond to specfic questions in a surveys, did you collect qualitative/subjective data?

  • ways in which your debriefing method may innovate or inspire others,

  • you can easily place some of this material in an appendix.

You cannot give an excuse like "my topic does not need debriefing"; almost all topics need it.

Please do not skimp on debriefing in your ms.  Reviewers are specifically requested to evaluate the adequacy of your debriefing discussion.

Some authors have attempted to skirt the topic of debriefing by using the terms at the end of the article as a substitute for "summary", and saying that they were debriefing the research process.  That is certainly a good thing to do, but it is not debriefing the participants.  Other authors, using an experimental design, maybe with a control group, have attempted to pass off the usual debriefing of participants in the experiment (a procedure often used in stressful social psychlogical experiments, e.g., la Milgram), but that is still not debriefing the participants of the game, to draw out the learning.  Ideally, here, one would conduct two debriefing sessions, each with its own clear purpose.  In addition, if the game is for learning, then game debrief would be included explicitly in the experiment.

Some references to articles that have a strong focus on debriefing are provided below.  You will be able to find plenty of others in the literature -- either in S&G or in other journals.

Many articles in S&G mention debriefing, even those that are not focused on the topic.  Some years ago a special issue was published on the topic (see link below).  Many other journals have articles about debriefing.  In 2013, I ran a short workshop on debriefing, and I have placed a copy of the slides file here.  Also a copy of a more recent S&G article of mine that emphasizes the importance of debriefing: