Dates of Course Meet-Ups
Wednesday 22 April, 1100-1300. Namkyu Chun thesis discussion.
Wednesday 29 April, 1100-1300. Camilla Groth thesis discussion.
Wednesday 6 May, 1100-1300. Cindy Kohtala thesis discussion.
Wednesday 13 May, 1100-1300. Elise Hodson thesis discussion.
Wedneday 20 May, 1100-1300. Conclusions to draw learnings together.
The authors of each thesis will be joining their respective class to respond to comments and questions.
Course content and structure
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 doctoral 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. You will also take initiative in self-organising some parts of the course.
In the 2020 context of Coronavirus, this course will happen online, via group online discussions. The timetable for meetings will be agreed at the initial kick-off meeting.
Four doctoral theses are provided in 'Materials'. You should choose one of these to do an in-depth study, but also read a chapter from each of them.
The course depends on individual reading outside of scheduled class meetings and students’ self-organised groupwork within 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 means that 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. In addition to a 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.
In support of your independent study, I strongly recommend that you read Chapter 1 of:
Finn, J. A. (2005). Getting a PhD: An action plan to help manage your research, your supervisor and your project. London: Routledge
This is available in 'Materials'.
To give the students an overview of the branches of design research, their backgrounds and topical discussions.
Give students examples of alternative ways to compose doctoral dissertations in design.
Examination and grade criteria
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.