Thesis Research and Design II


Science is certainty; research is uncertainty. Science is supposed to be cold, straight, and detached; research is warm, involving, and risky. Science puts an end to the vagaries of human disputes; research creates controversies. Science produces objectivity by escaping as much as possible from the shackles of ideology, passions, and emotions; research feeds on all of those to render objects of inquiry familiar.
    —Bruno Latour, ‘‘From the World of Science to the World of Research,’’ Science 280: 208–09.

Within architectural education the thesis has been a valued technique for engaging the relationship between facts and fictions and, as a result, has provided an opportunity for both a personal and a disciplinary specific form of research.
    —David Salomon, “Experimental Cultures” JAE 65: 33-44

 There are two key requirements for any thesis:
1. A thesis needs to put forward a discussion on an intellectual proposition and its supporting evidence. A Master of Architecture thesis needs to be presented as a well-researched and adequately supported argument – it does not need to be an original or unique contribution to the field. Often, a thesis begins with an urgent question about the world we live in and progresses as the author defines and explores how architecture can address this question.
2. Your thesis needs to engage the practice of architecture and existing discourse critically and creatively. You must be clear about how you reinforce, advance, refute or challenge existing practices or debates. Additionally, you need to understand where your research situates itself within this larger field. This requires the refinement of a clear question, methodologies, knowledge of relevant literature and relevant precedents (whether they be methodological, programmatic, tectonic, site-based, or other).
Your thesis research is a unique opportunity to conduct your own research and to position yourself within the discipline. It is not a culminating work, but rather a synthesis of interests you likely have held across moments in your education and work experiences. Your thesis presents you with an opportunity to put forth a set of questions and interests that might propel future work, whether they be professional or academic.

The primary objective of ARCH 693 – is to support the development of your thesis. There are three sub-objectives for this course: 

  • The course provides a framework of lectures, workshops and exercises that supports your progress on thesis. Topics covered here include academic-related policies and procedures as well as research tools used in planning, organizing, and producing your research. 
  • The course foregrounds the writing activities each of you will undertake as part of your thesis. Building off the topics presented in lecture and workshop sessions, the course organizes a series of peer review sessions and associated deliverables to address the development of text supporting your thesis work.  While each students’ goals for writing will differ, the course focuses on delivering what are considered essential thesis text components such as an abstract, topic identification, relevance, and context, methods and expected outcomes. This text-focused work will culminate in the production of an essay which will either: (a) form the core of your writing if you are doing a design-research thesis or (b) become a distinct chapter/expanded outline of your book if you are doing a primarily research thesis.
  • The course provides you with opportunities to share your work with a wider audience as a mechanism to collect impressions, feedback, and suggestions on the work. In addition to the peer-led sessions outlined above, two types of presentation days are planned through the term where students are expected to share their progress and get feedback. The first, Progress Presentation 1, will be very much like a traditional review where students will individually present their work. In the second mode – Progress Presentation 2 – Symposia Panels students will organize a panel discussion with member of their reading groups. Efforts will be made to assemble committee members as well as other appropriate critics for each student presentation.

You will notice that this course does not directly support the development of the thesis from a topic, research, design, and production perspective. This type of work happens through independent efforts working directly with your thesis supervisor. It is expected that you maintain contact with your assigned thesis supervisor where project-specific issues and progress are discussed on a regular basis. 

The intent is that by the end of the TRD II term, propelled by activities in this course and those guided by your supervisor, you will have a clear thesis question, a deliberate path toward completion, a timeline, a clear set of methods you intend to employ (and have practiced), and a sense of the type of outcomes you hope you achieve through your thesis work.