module specification

DN7017 - Design Research for Practice (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Design Research for Practice
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 50%   Research Report (3-4000 words)
Coursework 50%   Contextual Report (2-3000 words)
Running in 2022/23

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

Module summary

This module, carried out within the context of a design studio, develops abilities to identify, evaluate for suitability, synthesise and apply design research methods in support of practice. It supports the acquisition of a body of research knowledge and abilities that can be adapted and applied to design challenges (within the course and beyond into professional practice) according to a set brief and future demands. It provides the creative, intellectual and technical vocabulary necessary to validate design experimentation, development and realisation. Students will examine key principles and methods in design research essential for undertaking postgraduate study and advanced research practice.

Through research allied to studio practice, students will explore new opportunities emerging in the field of design and production, applied to set and self-set briefs. Students will be introduced to a selection of design research tools and methods through which innovative approaches to design are explored. They will consider contexts and constraints as they affect practice, related to the production, distribution and consumption of designed artefacts and environments, and their ethical, sociological or cultural, environmental and technological aspects, and test and critique existing and developing research skills and methods within a defined discipline- related context.

Lectures on the fundamentals of research methods will help to identify connections to design research interests that will underpin studio practice. As students become more secure and rigorous in their handling of research methods, they will become increasingly self-directed in their modes of practice, consolidating the theoretical and methodological approaches employed in design.

The module aims to:
• equip students for postgraduate level study in design through the development of knowledge, understanding and ability in design research and the application of research to practice;
• raise awareness of the beneficial impact of rigorous design research by demonstrating how the quality of the design process and outcomes can be enhanced through the application of valid research methods;
• strengthen students’ ability to work independently as critical researchers and practitioners;
• enable students to critically select and assemble appropriate research methods into well-constructed design research programmes;
• enable the achievement of original findings and proposals through the application of design research methods to design development and practice.


The module will cover a range of methods and theories used in design research and practice, exploring their relationship to research in different subject areas (broadly technology, the humanities and social sciences).  The field of design research is wide-ranging and students will discuss the aims and constraints of design research, the validity of different research methods, the criteria used to assess and evaluate them and appropriate modes of dissemination. LO1,LO3

The central part of the syllabus is delivered through a design ‘studio’. In this context, design research is distinguished from work undertaken in research degrees as the studio is taught: students will apply research methods being tested to create a series of design responses to set discipline-specific design briefs, working within defined parameters.  LO2,LO4

The design studio identifies the theme and syllabus for the programme, broadly establishing the topic for research and particular field of research methods.  Within these parameters, students will work either individually or in groups determining a specific framework, process and set of outcomes.  From and through the work undertaken within the context of the studio, sufficient material will be developed to establish a focused project proposal. All stages of the design process will require students to evaluate, consider and critically reassess their position in light of insights gained during their studies to date. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4

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 are expected to, and have the opportunity to continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and practice-focused learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able to engage and challenge the intellectual and professional environment of their discipline, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

1. assess, synthesise and apply design research methods effectively, in a coherent and cogent manner, appropriate to the context for practice;
2. work with research methods appropriate to a given design problem and identify and manage the key cultural, theoretical, ethical, and practical issues attaching;
3. develop critical models for practice-led research and interpret design research findings through testing and communicating results, according to negotiated deadlines;
4. use appropriate, professional skills in primary and secondary research (quantitative and qualitative data and theoretical knowledge accumulation, assimilation and interpretation), and present findings and future planned research and development in subject-relevant formats.

Assessment strategy

Research Report

Textual submission of 3000-4000 words, with primary and secondary research appendices (outwith the word limit), specifically including case study and literature review. To include an appropriate and relevant reference list and bibliography, and if appropriate the ethical and/or final users’ requirements and/ or responses discussed and debated.

Contextual Report

The Contextual Report will identify a territory of interest for research and deliver a rich and detailed study of all aspects of the subject, building on the skills in research developed in the preceding Research Report.

The object of the Contextual Report’s study should be related to a potential subsequent Major Project and investigate all aspects of the context (environmental, social, cultural,  ethical, economic, political, technological, etc) of the proposed project, but not begin or propose any design work. The purpose of the report is to ensure:

• that the Major Project addresses a ‘real’ issue that demonstrably needs the intervention of a designer;
• that there is a ‘gap’ in existing solutions (they are partial, ineffective or non-existent) and that the reasons for the inadequacy of existing solutions is understood;
• that the contextual conditions for which the design proposal will be offered are thoroughly understood;
• that there is a prospect of a valid and applicable solution within the capabilities of the designer;
• that the criteria for assessing relative success of the proposal are known and defined.

The Contextual Report will be extensively supported by illustrations (which may be photographs, technical or site drawings, graphs/ charts, information graphics, etc., but no design work), and may make use of appendices, for example of transcripts of interviews, or records of surveys. The Contextual Report will evidence a well-informed research methodology that will ensure the systematic use of techniques for data gathering, evaluation and analysis.


The following are indicative only.  Refereed journals/ articles and electronic resources: issued according to syllabus

Cheasley Paterson, E. and Surette, S. (eds), (2015) Sloppy Craft: Postdisciplinarity and the Crafts,  London: Bloomsbury
Clark, H. and Brody, D. (eds), (2009) Design Studies: a Reader, Oxford: Berg
Collins, H. (2010) Creative research : the theory and practice of research for the creative industries, Lausanne: AVA Academia
Crouch, C. and Pearce, J. (2012) Doing Research in Design, Oxford: Berg
Gray, C. and Malins, J. (2004) Visualizing research : a guide to the research process in art and design, Aldershot: Ashgate
Hemmings, J. (ed.), (2012)The Textile Reader, London: Bloomsbury
Highmore, B. (ed.), (2009) The Design Culture Reader, London: Routledge
Laurel, B. (ed.), (2003) Design research : methods and perspectives, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT
Lees-Maffei, G. and Houze, R. (eds), (2010) The Design History Reader, Oxford: Berg
Martin, B. and Hanington, B. (2012) Universal methods of design : 100 ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions, Beverly, Mass.:Rockport
Simonsen, J. et al, (eds), (2010) Design research : synergies from interdisciplinary perspectives, London: Routledge
Taylor, M. and Preston, J. (eds),(2006) Intimus: Interior Design Theory Reader, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons
Tilley, C. et al (eds), (2006) Handbook of Material Culture, London: Sage