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.


  • Students gain an overview of the branches of design research, their backgrounds and topical discussions.
  • Students gain examples of alternative ways to compose doctoral dissertations in design.
  • Students learn the needed skills to critically analyse research outputs and summarize them
  • Students learn how to effectively share and discuss research outputs and gain skills in how to distribute the workload in covering research literature

Credits: 2

Schedule: 27.02.2023 - 17.04.2023

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Sampsa Hyysalo

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

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:

    This course involves you in exploring the content of design research at the Aalto Department of Design. Additionally, and importantly, you will be introduced to and put into practice important research skills. This practical exploration will be done through example – we will go through a selected PhD dissertation from each of the department’s research groups. You will learn how to “dissect a dissertation”, namely how to perform and summarize a close reading, examine how different elements within a dissertation are crafted and related to one another, and discuss positioning within design research and background literature. You will be introduced and guided through some approaches to this, and you will also take initiative to self-organize some parts of the course.


    The course depends on individual reading outside of scheduled class meetings and students’ self-organized groupwork in- and outside of scheduled class meetings.


    Course meetings involve structured discussion of selected dissertations, guided by teachers but led by student groups. Preparation for each course meeting involves all students a) carefully read of a summary and one key chapter of each dissertation and b) one student /small group of students to have closely read through and summarized the dissertation to be discussed in the session and selected the chapter to read.


    Hence a person / small group will be assigned to each dissertation, and that group will perform additional analyses and prepare the summary of the work and the course meeting associated with that dissertation. The additional analysis includes reading and analyzing the assigned dissertation through these lenses:

    • Argumentation: What does the research study in the dissertation consist of? How are research questions, units of analysis (or delimitation of the study), analysis and outcomes related?
    • Methods: What are the main research methods and how are these presented, performed and reflected upon? Research methods may be drawn from literature review, qualitative research, quantitative analysis, action/participatory action research, design or artistic productions, etc. etc.
    • Context: How is the dissertation contextualized in relation to research discourses, communities and beneficiaries? How does the author position themselves? What was the context for doing the research study and writing the dissertation?
    • Form: How does the argumentation connecting different parts of the study unfold in the book? What are relations between theory (or theories) and practice (or practices) in the book and how do those appear in the book? Practice may include qualitative research practices, design or production practices, etc. etc.


    Students should discuss and develop their methods for performing an analysis along these lines and how they will present this in course meetings. F.ex. in addition to 3-6 page summary the presentations may include an oral presentation, a visual map or other communicable format through which the whole class can gain an understanding and critically contribute. If possible, the author of the dissertation will be invited in for dialogue during the small group discussion on the thesis.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Students should attend 80% of course meetings in order to complete the course and to dissect one dissertation in its entirety. Work is continually assessed and as demonstrated in course discussions and the dissertation summary written. In case of additional absence discussed with and approved by a teacher, a make-up assignment may fulfill the absence.

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    The course consists of independent and group work and small group seminarss

    Selection of readings will also be openly discussed and potentially revised with students.


Substitutes for Courses


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Teaching Language : English

    Teaching Period : 2022-2023 Spring IV
    2023-2024 Spring IV

    Enrollment :

    Minimum number of participants: 8
    Maximum number of participants: 20

    Registration for courses: Sisu. Priority order to courses is according to the order of priority decided by the Academic committee for School of Arts, Design and Architecture,