module specification

AR7P18 - Design Thesis (2021/22)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2021/22
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Design Thesis
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 60
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 600
576 hours Guided independent study
24 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Dissertation 100% 50 Design Thesis Dissertation
Running in 2021/22

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Summer studies City To be arranged -

Module summary

This module is the culmination of the Master’s programme. It allows the student to articulate an extended field of self-directed design research into an ambitious and rigorous proposition. The academically conceptualised module offers Master’s students the opportunity to develop a design thesis: a theoretically framed and argued  proposition developed through design project work, the designate modules and personal investigation. This thesis might, for example, clarify aspects of the wider context of the field of investigation, or it might further investigate a particular area of interest. It could take the form of an illustrated written document or an extended design or urban analysis project, suitably documented. The aim is to enable students to position themselves, intellectually and creatively, within contemporary discourse on the design of architecture and interiors and/or the production and analysis of the city, in relation to the agenda of design research.  

Bridging the subject areas of architecture, interior design and urbanism, the thesis is not defined by the limits of professional practice. It may, for example, fruitfully explore the boundaries of a subject area and its cross-fertilisation with other disciplines; it may focus on more traditional but still pertinent ground, or it may investigate the implications of new cultural, technological, or public policy considerations. Whilst it is expected that the dissertation will explore the context of the chosen field of research and investigate relevant precedents, the thesis should in itself be propositional.

The module is largely self-directed but will typically be developed from the work previously undertaken within design units, from knowledge gained through attendance at seminars (convened during term time) and the production and discussion of a thesis abstract or (as required within an associated module component: AR7009 or AR7016). At the commencement of the Summer Study Period the student is required to present a thesis outline (extending the abstract submitted at the end of Semester 1) which establishes a plan for the final document.

Prior learning requirements

For students on MA Architecture:
AR7016 Design Research (pre-requisite)
AR7017 Concept and Proposition (pre-requisite)
For students on MA Architecture and Urbanism:
AR7009 Urban Design and Spatial Planning
AR7010 Urban Practice


It is the responsibility of the student to determine the detailed syllabus under the guidance of the Course Leader or nominated tutor.  The theory underpinning the proposition may be derived from the wide variety of sources that impinge on the design of architecture or interiors.  The development and final format of the Design Thesis should be appropriate to the theoretical proposition and be understood as part of the design issue. 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 completing the module the student should be able to:

1. devise an appropriate vehicle for a design thesis and manage a self-directed programme of design and theoreticalinvestigation;
2. formulate a clear and critical framework of ideas through appropriate modes of representation;
3. articulate their work in relation to relevant current and historical contexts;
4. construct a thesis that is well resolved within its own terms;
5. show a high level of skill in the appropriate communication ofdesign, theoretical and historical ideas, processes and propositions.

Assessment strategy

Assessment is based on a document, presented within the context of a portfolio of work, which demonstrates through appropriate modes of documentation:

• a well-founded and/or innovative design and/or critical proposition;

• a clearly formulated critical framework of ideas;

• a specific or generic model for the design of architecture or interiors or urban project;

• a well-constructed design or urban analysis scheme that is fully resolved within its own terms;

• a high level of skill in deploying different modes of representation to communicate and present a design/analytical scheme and its theoretical framework including oral presentation.
Work will be evaluated in the above categories against the following criteria:

• scope and ambition;
• innovation;

• quality theoretical thinking;

• quality design proposition;
• quality communication;

Modes of documentation 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.


Detailed readings will be specific to each individual student and vary from course to course. General references include published design schemes demonstrating a strong theoretical position. The following indicative bibliography addresses the generic aims of the module at the level appropriate to the course of study.

Crouch, C. and Pearce, J. (2012) Doing Research in Design, (Berg)
Dutoit, A., J. Odgers, J. and Sharr, A. (eds) (2010) Quality Out of Control: Standards for Measuring Architecture, (Routledge)
Laurel, B. (ed.), (2003) Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, (MIT Press)
Mitchell, M., Tang, B. and Patwari, S. (2012) Learning from Delhi: Dispersed Initiatives in Changing Urban Landscapes, (Ashgate)
Murray, G. (2002) Teaching, research and practice: establishing a productive balance – raising the game, Architectural Research Quarterly 6(4): 297-299
Samuel, F. and Dye, A. (2015) Demystifying Architectural Research: Adding Value to Your Practice, (RIBA Publishing)
Simonsen, J. et al, (eds), (2010) Design Research: Synergies from Interdisciplinary Perspectives, (Routledge)
Till, J. (2007) What is Architectural Research? Available online:
Van Schaik, L. (2005) Mastering Architecture: Becoming a Creative Innovator in Practice, (John Wiley and Sons)
Architecture and Culture
Architectural Research Quarterly
Building Research and Information
Design Studies
Journal of Architectural Education
Journal of Architecture