module specification

AR7016 - Design Research (2020/21)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2020/21
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Design Research
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 40
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 400
319 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 10%   Thesis Abstract
Coursework 90%   Portfolio
Running in 2020/21

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Thursday Morning
Year City Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module invites the student to engage, from within an individual design unit, with the substance of formulating a design research proposition; it develops a student's design skills and understanding along with an ability to critically engage in design research. The module aims to equip students for postgraduate level study in design, through the development of their skills and understanding in regard to design research. The underlying aim is to raise the awareness and expectations of design research by improving the quality of the process, with reference to similar processes in other disciplines. In parallel, students will develop their understanding of the unique aspects of design research, in relation to the specific issues encountered in the built environment. 
This background will enable students to critically select and carry out appropriate forms of research for developing well-informed design models. The module will emphasise the function of dissemination in research and encourage high standards of documentation. The module is based in the design studio, with the principal themes and issues being introduced through a seminar programme, attendance of which is a requirement of the module.

Prior learning requirements

AR7017 Concept and Proposition (co-requisite)


The introductory part of the module will cover a range of techniques and theories practised in design research and their relationship to research, in different subject areas (broadly the sciences, humanities and social sciences). The field of design research is wide-ranging and students will discuss the aims of design research, the validity of different research methods, the criteria used to determine them and appropriate modes of dissemination. LO1

The main part of the syllabus is delivered through the design unit. It is process-driven, rather than content-driven, as the set work or ‘contents’ change year on year and will be different for each design unit. In this context, design research is distinguished from work undertaken in research degrees as the module is taught: students enrolled on the module will undertake a set project and work within defined parameters.

Each design unit is responsible for drawing up the syllabus for their programme, broadly establishing the topic for research and particular field of research methods.  Within these parameters, students work either individually or in groups determining a specific framework, process and set of outcomes.  The overarching framework followed by each design unit, will conform to the process required to satisfy the ‘Learning Outcomes’  set out in the module. From and through the work undertaken, within the context of the unit, the student is expecting to develop sufficient material to establish a focussed thesis proposition. This may take a variety of forms,  for example, the student might extend a particular area of interest or, alternatively, establish and clarify aspects of  the wider context of the field of study. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students have the opportunity to study outside of scheduled classes – particularly in the working environment of the design studio. A range of learning strategies are deployed and individual learning styles accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, are regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive pedagogical approach.
The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning. Peer-to-peer communication is fostered in group activities and tutorial support provided regularly. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment tasks and formative feedback, particularly in the traditional context of the design critique or ‘crit’. Students are encouraged to reflect on their progress and engage in sequential decision making through staged submissions, and to make recommendations to themselves for future development.
The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able – as they progress – to understand the professional environment of their discipline, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions and aspirations.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module, the student will be able to:

1. work within research field appropriate to a given design problem and identify key cultural, environmental, technological, historical or theoretical issues;
2. identify and assemble the data required from primary and/or secondary sources, in order to analyse the selected set of design issues systematically and in depth;
3. develop prototypical design models that interpret research material through testing and demonstrating results;
4. collate, document and present research material to an appropriate standard;
5. produce a concise, written, illustrated abstract which establishes the key themes of the thesis proposition, beyond the studio design project.

Assessment strategy

Module assessment will be based on the presentation of two associated pieces of work.
A Portfolio which demonstrates, through appropriate modes of documentation:
• identification of a specific field of research through analysis of key design issues, involved in a set project;
• systematic collection and collation of primary and secondary data, relevant to the field of research;
• development of a well-informed research methodology through the systematic use of techniques for data-gathering, analysis and testing against results;
• analysis and valid interpretation of results through the development of design models, with reference to appropriate precedents;
• presentation of design research to proto-publishing or exhibition standard.
A written abstract (of approximately 1000 words) which establishes the strategies, scope and evaluation criteria for the Design Thesis, of which this is a pre-requisite.
Work will be evaluated in each of the assessment instruments, against the following criteria:
• scope and ambition;
• degree of rigour;
• relevance;
• quality of analysis and interpretation;
• quality of documentation.
Modes of documentation for the portfolio submission may include: drawings; photographic material; multi-media material; quantitative data; qualitative data; 3D models or prototypes; web-based material.  All 3D and multi-media work should be recorded in graphic form and explained to a standard suitable for assessment purposes.



Each design unit will provide its own bibliography to suit the unit themes and interests for the year in question. The following reading list is designed to address the generic aims of the module at the level appropriate to the course of study.
Fraser, M. (2013) Design Research in Architecture: An Overview (Ashgate)
Groat, L. and Wang, D. (2002) Architectural Research Methods (John Wiley and Sons)
Lawson, B. (2002) ‘The subject that won't go away - But perhaps we are ahead of the game. Design as research.’ Architectural Research Quarterly, 6(2): 109-114
Plowright, P. (2014) Revealing Architectural Design: Methods, Frameworks and Tools, (Routledge)
Sharr, A. (ed) (2012) Reading Architecture & Culture: Researching Buildings, Spaces and Documents (Routledge)
Architecture and Culture
Architectural Research Quarterly
Building Research and Information
Design Studies
Journal of Architectural Education
Journal of Architecture
Public Culture