Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


Upon successful completion of the course student is able to (1) develop a thesis plan relevant to their thesis topic and MA programme, (2) demonstrate familiarity with information retrieval, academic writing, research ethics and other issues relevant to carrying out their MA thesis, (3) comprehend and apply in their thesis process the contents of the Master's Thesis Guide of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, including aims, planning, and process for completing MA thesis, and the thesis evaluation criteria.

Credits: 2

Schedule: 06.09.2021 - 03.06.2022

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Heidi Paavilainen

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

University lecturer Heidi Paavilainen (
Heidi has a long academic career in the Department, starting with BA+MA in Textile design and PhD in Industrial design. Her doctoral research was about “domestication of design”, that is, how it feels like to live with designed products and garments, and why people bother to do it as it takes quite a lot of work to have design in home. Majority of her time goes to teaching, tutoring and educational leadership but what she can spare, she spends on research about “domestication of recycled stuff”, aiming to contribute to the general field of circular economy with a user point of view. Heidi speaks Finnish and English.

University lecturer Namkyu Chun (
Through his multicultural (from East Asia to North/South Americas and Nordic Europe) and cross-disciplinary (from fashion design/merchandising, journalism, non-profit fundraising and design consulting) experiences, Namkyu has been interested in critically engaging with discourses on design practice while questioning the social role of design(ers). His relationship with Aalto community began in 2014 as a doctoral candidate. Since the completion of his doctoral studies in 2018, he got more involvements in numerous teaching and educational development activities, such as the MA Thesis Journey project. As a practitioner who has more recently become a researcher/teacher, Namkyu can help navigate challenges as a peer with handy exercises. Currently, Namkyu is working as a lecturer, focusing on the ways of communicating the value of design. Namkyu speaks Korean and English.

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    The course informs and reminds students about and supports applying in the thesis their learnings in research methods, information retrieval, academic writing, research ethics, written and oral communication, project management and department thesis completion process. Working methods: lectures (100% attentance requirement), pre- and in-class assignments. Alternatively student can independently study and work with assignments and then take an electric exam in specified times.

  • applies in this implementation

    Assignments, zoom-sessions and online materials in MyCourses support students to

    1. Realise where their interests lie and how to develop successful thesis plan based on their interests, learning objectives and resources;
    2. How to write compact, actionable, realistic and informative thesis plan in clear language that follows  Department’s academic styles;
    3. Understand and prepare for the entire thesis process with its different options and requirements.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Doing the course by attending in contact teaching: Pre- and in-course assignments, with 100% participation requirement. Doing the course independently: exam based on assignments

  • applies in this implementation

    TPO, essay (self-paced) is evaluated based on pre-assignments and exam.

    All assignments and exam answers are reviewed and evaluated with grading scale Failed - New revision needed - Passed - Passed with distinction. Grade depends on how well assignment follows instructions. For example, if some required part is missing, assignment is graded with “New revision needed”. The better assignment meets instructions the higher its grade. Notice that even though students may submit several assignments to one “submission box”, each assignment is graded separately.

    If pre-assignment is graded with Failed or New revision needed, student can revise the assignment and resubmit via MyCourses until June 3. If parts of exam are Failed or New revision needed, student is asked to hand in the assignments to which exam is based on.

    TPO essay (self-paced) course is graded with 0-5 as follows, based on how well assignments and quiz meets the instructed requirements:

    • 1-11 Fail: Course grade 0 (irrespective of how assignments are doing otherwise). However, if one or more of quiz responses is graded as Failed, teacher will ask student to submit assignments, which may lead to reconsideration of grade (in other words, if quiz is not satisfactory, grading will be done based on TPOessay assignments.)
    • 3-4 Revise: Course grade 1 (irrespective of how assignments are doing otherwise)
    • 1-2 Revise: Course grade 2 (irrespective of how assignments are doing otherwise)
    • 0-3 Distinction: Course grade 3 (provided there're no grounds for lower grade)
    • 4-6 Distinction: Course grade 4 (provided there're no grounds for lower grade)
    • 5-11 Distinction: Course grade 5 (provided there're no grounds for lower grade

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    2ECTS is a 54hour workload

    • Contact teaching 15h or 0h (remote option)
    • Independent studying 28h or 43h (remote option, including exam 2h)
    • Personal reflection and self-assessment 10h
    • Course feedback 1h

  • applies in this implementation

    Contact teaching 0 hours. Doing TPO independently in your own pace does not involve contact teaching. Student can, however, seek tutoring from teacher in charge of the course.
    Independent studying 43 hours refers to the working with 4 pre-assignments (roughly 5h each), 6 assignments (roughly 2-4 hours each) and doing an exam quiz (about 2h) in MyCourses.
    Personal reflection and self-assessment 10 hours refers to the internalisation and reflection based on course contents. This crucial phase of learning and development takes place in student’s own time.
    Course feedback 1 hour refers to the feedback that student gives about the course via Webropol survey and directly to the teachers in class.


Study Material
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    The Master's Thesis Guide of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Additional materials are listed in course syllabus and available in MyCourses

  • applies in this implementation

    In addition to The Master’s Thesis Guide of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture there are no required readings. However, several useful books, articles and other resources are listed in the course MyCourses. In addition, out of all the hundreds of thesis guidebooks we want to highlight one that comes surprisingly close to what ARTS MA students are doing: 

    Gruba, P., & Zobel, J. (2017). How to write your first thesis. Springer. Available as a free download in Aalto Finna for Aalto students. Practically speaking the same book has been published as How to write a better minor thesis, 2014.

Substitutes for Courses


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Teaching Period:

    2020-2021 Summer (contact teaching), Autumn I - Spring V (remote study option)

    2021-2022 Summer (contact teaching), Autumn I - Spring V (remote study option)

    Course Homepage:

    Registration for Courses: Sisu replaces Oodi on 9 August, 2021. Priority order to courses is according to the order of priority decided by the Academic committee for School of Arts, Design and Architecture:


Details on the schedule
  • applies in this implementation

    Thesis Plan Orientation is the first step in doing Master's thesis. The course should be completed before student actually starts to work with their thesis. The assignments are designed to inform about the practicalities and support making decisions about content of the thesis plan. That said, course can be done anytime during the academic year. Teachers will get a notice when student submits pre-assignments.