Topic outline


    Thesis guide (valid 1.8.2022 onwards), Opinnäyteohje (voimassa 1.8.2022 alkaen) is the bible which covers all the basic requirements of the thesis. Read it, reflect upon it and do as is instructed. Notice, that there are some big changes in this new guide so even if you are familiar with the guide valid until 31.7.2022, read the new guide. Changes with most impact: submission date of thesis is also the graduation date; thesis can be submitted in the last working day of the academic term. Also the oral presentation changes and it is given before submitting the thesis so the feedback given in the oral presentation can be utilised when finalising the thesis manuscript.

    Thesis plan explained. This is a video lecture by Turkka Keinonen.

    TPO Orientation week slides may help, too, although not all slides are self-explaining.
    Positioning yourself and your thesis in the field of design (slides Namkyu Chun)
    Academic language / Eeva Berglund (slides Eeva Berglund). Breakoutroom texts
    Making a good thesis plan proposal (slides Heidi Paavilainen)
    Getting your thesis done without going bonkers (slides Heidi Paavilainen)
    Talks and Q&A panel with recent graduates (Shreya's tips Shreya Sood)
    Advanced elements of a good thesis plan and introduction to the Thesis portal (slides Namkyu Chun)

    Thesis plan proposal/Thesis plan templateThis structure for the thesis plan is a suggestion and it can be adopted according to the thesis. In case your supervisor provides you with research plan instructions different from the following, act according to the instructions of your supervisor, and, of course, MA Thesis Guide.

    Contract template for thesis in/with a company. Should you plan to do thesis for a company, here's a helpful contract template. Remember that it is not only you who promises a thesis to the company but that also the company needs to promise support to you. Update 23.11.2021: Contract template updated to the official template for study and educational contracts with organisations outside Aalto University.

    Copyright and personal data explained. This is a video lecture by Mari Pesola. Here are the slides of the talk.

    Information retrieval explained. This is a video lecture by Marika Sarvilahti. Here are the slides of the talk.

    Oral presentation, thesis submission and graduation timetable.   Updated 26.4.23.

    Research ethics by the Finnish National Board of Research Integrity (TENK). Updated Research ethcis (Only in Finnish).

    Department of Design Grants for possible funding of thesis production.


    Academic English materials by Maurice Forget at the Language Centre:

    Language Tips for Thesis Writers
    Strategies for Citation integration
    Phrase Bank

    Lyhyt opas viittaamiseen (in Finnish) explains in an economic manner why, when and how to write correct references in an academic text.

    In English helpful is instructions to Harvard referencing because (Author, date) format is commonly used in the Department. Remember, though, that ARTS or Aalto does not have recommended referencing system so you can use whatever system you feel is most appropriate. A key principle is simple: your text must be as easy as possible to read and evaluate. Use your user-centred thinking skills to achieve that. In general, academic readers tend to prefer seeing sources in the text while commercial writers typically have endnotes.

    Useful website for referencing:

    (PDFHow to read a book, v5.0 by Paul N. Edwards, University of Michigan School of Information

    (PDF) Newport, C. (2007). How to become a straight-A student. Chapter about how to write college-level 30-50 pages research paper. New York: Broadway Books. Even though this is not specifically about writing the thesis, the example of "Mindy's Art History Research Paper" fits very well with how to construct and write a good thesis.

    (PDFWebster, J., & Watson, R. T. (2002). Analyzing the past to prepare for the future. Writing a literature review. MIS Quarterly26(2), xiii-xxiii.This is an informative and comforting article written by the editors of MIS Quarterly to help their contributors to write good quality literature reviews.

    (PDF) Ladik, D. M., & Stewart, D. W. (2008). The contribution continuum. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science36(2), 157-165. This article is about how to write your thesis contribution.
    Some handbooks that are useful if writing does not come easily:
    Becker, H. S. (202). Writing for social scientists. How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article. Third updated edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
    Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2007). “They say/I say”. The moves that matter in persuasive writing. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
    Ilyin, N. (2019). Writing for the design mind. London: Bloomsbury.

    Some handbooks and articles dealing with qualitative research methods. Saldana talks also about writing.
    Muratovski, G. (2016). Research for designers. A guide to methods and practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. There's also an updated 2022 edition.
    Saldaña, J. (2011). Fundamentals of qualitative research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    (PDF) Saldaña, J. (2013). "Introduction to codes and coding". From Saldaña, J. The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Second edition. Los Angeles: Sage.
    (PDF) Spradley, J. (2003). Asking descriptive questions. In Qualitative approaches to criminal justice. Perspectives from the field, ed. Mark Pogrebin, 44-53. Thousand Oaks: Sage


    If you feel that your MA thesis is not going to be your last time writing long or complicated manuscripts, consider using professional software and practices. Professional writers tend to write either with a basic text editor (such as TextEdit) or a full-blown manuscript composer (such as Scrivener (the best) or Ulysses(also really good)), accompanied by a reference manager (such as ZoteroPaperpile or Bookends). Word processors (such as MS Word and Apple Pages), which are half text editors and half layout design software, are ok for those who do not plan to write long manuscripts after the thesis. Even with word processors, it is best to keep the styling of text at a minimum and do layout design with e.g. InDesign. You can outsource your layout design, provided you credit the graphic designer properly. Also, if you are not likely to need a full-blown referencing system after writing your thesis, then for example spreadsheet programmes (MS Excel and Apple Numbers) will keep your references organised well enough if a text file feels too simple.


    Assorted selection of design literature below. Most of the titles below can be found online through Primo.

    A literature list for three research competences of Aalto Design Research:
    Design for Sustainability
    Collaborative and Human-Centred Design
    Practice-based Research

    Ceschin, F., & Gaziulusoy, A. I. (2019). Design for sustainability. A multi-level framework from products to socio-technical systems. London: Routledge.
    Clark, H., & Brody, D. (Eds.). (2009). Design studies. A reader. London: Bloomsbury.
    Egenhoefer, R. B. (Ed.). (2017). Routledge handbook of sustainable design. London: Routledge.
    Gorman, C. (Ed.). (2003). The industrial design reader. New York: Allworth Press.
    Koskinen, I., Zimmerman, J., Binder, T., Redström, J., & Wensveen, S. (2012). Design research through practice. From the lab, field, and showroom. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
    Rodgers, P. A., & Yee, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Routledge companion to design research. London: Routledge.
    Simonsen, J., & Robertson, T. (Eds.). (2013). Routledge international handbook of participatory design. London: Routledge.