MAUD Design Thesis: Guidance


75 + Distinction
High level of originality and methodological rigour in the pursuit of research through design. Uplifting to read, high level of originality in thought and expression, dense and relevant as to facts and showing excellent judgment in their selection. Full command of methodology and appropriate analytical and predictive techniques and their deployment in advancing a very clear and coherent argument. Very clear communication of relationship to design development. Excellent grasp of principles, very well written, argued, very clearly illustrated, all calculations correct.

The MAUD course faces an unusual challenge in its attempt to embed design within a broader research objective. The two objectives, that of a coherent and innovative design project, and the production of rigorously argued research based thesis do not always dovetail elegantly. Therefore the following lays out what makes these endeavours distinct and provides some guidance as to how to approach each in turn. This guidance is intended as instructive rather than didactic as the detailed structure and content of each thesis and portfolio depends heavily on its individual emphasis. It is provided in the form of a number of core thesis related topics and outlines how we regard our research, the role of design in relation to this research, and a summary note on methodology, as well as a few more detailed instructions on the basic constituent elements and required protocols.

Every good piece of academic writing coheres around a strong argument and should be apparent throughout. This requires you to take a position with regard to the situation that you are confronting as both a researcher and as a designer. This position should
not be arrived at arbitrarily but should emerge through your research – there is nothing more hollow than a radical position post-rationalised through the selective use of research material – we are curious more than we are opportunistic. You should lay out your argument with care and demonstrate how the different aspects of your research (fieldwork, secondary and primary source material) have contributed to its formation and continue to support it.

Your research is the raw material of your thesis and your project. You will gather several times more of this material than you will ultimately require. You should allow yourself to be led by what you discover and may expect to find the breadth and complexity of what you find surprising, confusing, and overwhelming at quite regular intervals. While the seeming lack of direction that this mass of information suggests may feel at odds with the seemingly ordered design process, it is a necessary stage that will allow you to make truly informed decisions about the direction of your work. When assimilating this material, it is essential that your thesis does not become a mere repository for this research. You need to be selective with its use and demonstrate considered judgement. The progression of your design work should then support your decision making and ultimately act as a means for refining the questions that you ask, as well as the thrust of your argument.

Your research and your design should have a reciprocal relationship, one following from another and back again repeatedly. While the direction of your design should be fully supported and guided by what you have discovered in your research, your design should act as a means to refine its direction and to provoke more detailed questions. As we design from the outset of the course, our projects take on a speculative status, acting as tests whose terms are continually adjusted by the information that we gather. In the context of the written thesis, these are treated as a series of scenarios set against established precedents or case studies, physical, technical or theoretical, and enable us to approach our central argument from a number of angles. But this work must be handled with particular care, the thesis must not become an extended project description however well supported by the evidence that the research provides or selected case studies provide. Rather, the design direction should act as a means to call attention to aspects of society, physical phenomena etc., intelligently exploring the trajectory of a given condition. You should make sure that all major decisions are justifiable and support the argument clearly.

Your thesis and your design portfolio are separate submissions and should read as such. There will be inevitable overlap between them and it is acceptable for images to appear in both as necessary. Within the thesis however, it is essential that you are selective about what you use to support your written argument. You should show site material where necessary to understand the condition fully, illustrate design development in so far as it has responded to your research and demonstrate a strong visual understanding of the implications of your ideas.

It is essential that:
– all material is original or
– Found images derived from other sources are fully referenced
– All images are annotated appropriately and fully, but should not take the place of written text.
– The layout of images should not disrupt the flow of the body of text
– Unnecessary filler images are avoided at all costs. (If not directly relevant to the text and its argument, it should not be included)

The body of the thesis is highly dependent on the individual topic but should consider the issues described above. It should be carefully bracketed by the following:

A good introduction is central to the communication of the ideas central to your argument. You should draft these regularly throughout the thesis process as a way of understanding how your argument relates to both your research material and to the
design tests that you have engaged in. The introduction should:
– summarise the social, political, economic and cultural conditions as appropriate
– explain the existing situation, its physical characteristics, strengths and difficulties
– introduce the central argument
– introduce the design objective and clarify the role of design in the generation and support of the central argument
– outline research approach and content

The introduction should show how the key questions posed in the thesis are derived from this context and outline what you intend to do.

As you conclude be clear about:
– Your research findings
– Your design proposals
– How the problems that you have identified have been addressed
– And finally, why what you have done matters.

15.6.1 Components
– You must include the following:
– Table of contents
– Page numbers
– Chapters
– List of illustrations (with references)
– Bibliography
– You should adhere to consistent referencing system throughout for texts, images and interviews.

Word Count
The word count relates to body text and footnotes, but excludes ancillary material such as bibliography, table of contents, list of illustrations, and appendices. However, the content of appendices and their acceptability needs approval by the degree committee
(forward request to Nichola Tooke). Image annotations are excluded from the word count unless they are extensive, highly descriptive, and necessary for the overall comprehension of the thesis.

Design Thesis (20%) – Final Friday of May Y2 @12:00h (moodle 17:00hr)
requirement: 15,000 words (max)

Printed and bound hard copy document (2 copies) and uploaded to Moodle dropbox. Skillfully written, original argumentation that details the historical, social, political, economic and/or technical characteristics of a chosen condition and demonstrates how this has been tested and responded to through design work. While this issue is to be grounded in an understanding of a specific theoretical approach or technical criteria, students are to expected show how these form part of a wider metabolism and operate within the current concerns of the profession. The design thesis is to be structured around a well considered set research objectives and a clear methodology, and should demonstrate how these are addressed through an examination of the relevant literature, technical analysis and design development. This work is to be fully and carefully referenced, formatted, printed and bound for submission. The study, including captions, footnotes, endnotes and other annotation is not to exceed 15,000 words.